When you sleep, there are usually a handful of dreams that you have. Sometimes there’s the traditional falling dream or a dream about the public embarrassment of standing in a crowded room with just your underwear on. Or perhaps your dreams are more enjoyable, such as falling in love with a celebrity or achieving great personal success. If you’re Bob, the star of Back To Bed, then your dreams are a bit of a more surreal experience.
The premise of Back To Bed revolves around Bob, a mild-mannered man who has a severe case of narcolepsy. However, rather than being at rest during sleep, like you and I, Bob instead wanders around with no clue and no direction. He is not wandering around in reality, but is exploring the deepest reaches of his mind. And, as it turns out, Bob’s mind is heavily influenced by the works of surrealists such as M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali. While this sounds like it would be a blast to explore, all Bob wants to do is get back to bed, which is where you come in.
With Bob being deep in sleep, the task of guiding him to bed falls to Subob, his subconscious guardian. A cross between a dog and a man, Subob has a tall task ahead of him, as Bob can only move in one direction at a time. However, Subob cannot directly interact with Bob, and must use objects to redirect his path. Every time Bob hits an object, he turns clockwise, so his guardian must position different objects around him in order to shepherd him to his bed.
Navigating our sleepy hero is not too difficult in and of itself, but rather the difficulty comes from the optical illusions each level provides. Since Back To Bed is heavily influenced by the work of M.C. Escher, each level features illusions and secrets that make the task harder than it first appears. Later levels also introduce enemies, such as angry clock-men and man-eating floor monsters, who would like nothing more than to disturb Bob’s sleep.
As unique as each level is, though, I feel that Back To Bed is not as clever as it would like us to believe. The levels themselves won’t strain the brain too much, but are made more difficult by the clunky controls of Subob and their noted optical illusions. So rather than rack my brain trying to piece together the solution, I was more concerned with the layouts of each level.
In comparison to MouseCraft, another puzzle game that I recently covered, the lack of satisfaction I felt upon solving each of these puzzles was even greater. That’s not to say that this game isn’t difficult, though, as its Nightmare mode levels provide a genuine challenge. It’s just that after a while, playing through Back to Bed felt more like going through the motions than anything else.
It doesn’t help that Back To Bed only features a smattering of unique levels between its two worlds. Each world features 15 levels, which can be played through in both regular and Nightmare mode. While the Nightmare mode levels will add a solid amount of replay value to the title, the 30 levels can be completed in traditional mode in just over an hour. Due to the game’s relativity cheap entry cost of $5.99, this isn’t too much of an issue, but it is a little disappointing.
While the actual gameplay portion of this surreal experience may be a tad disappointing, developer Bedtime Digital Games makes up for it with a wonderful presentation style. The graphics are unique and endearing, with the fact that they were able to mash several different styles together and not have it look like a disaster highlighting a major success. In a way, it kind of reminds me of the classic Cartoon Network show Courage The Cowardly Dog. Both feature surreal and creative visuals, but neither are off-putting or creepy.
The visuals aren’t the only thing that give Back To Bed such a dream-like feel, though, as the sound work also contributes heavily. The background music is calming and hypnotic, which fits in perfectly with the charming world of the game. The narrator also helps contribute to this feel, mostly because he sounds like he just drank a whole bottle of NyQuil and is on the verge of passing out.
Back To Bed feels like the beginning of a great game, as all the pieces are there, but it never really comes together as well as it should. The puzzles need more variety and should have focused more on being brain-teasers, rather than relying on optical illusions. However, the experience isn’t a complete waste, as the presentation is one of the more unique ones in recent memory. Considering the low cost of the game, there are certainly worse ways to waste an hour of your time.
This review was based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us.