Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: 'Sleepwalker's Journey' by 11 bit studios

It's nice to see a creator or company do something different.  It's easy to find success or comfort in something and stick to that mold.  Eventually they run the risk of being pigeonholed and find themselves in a tough spot when whatever they've spent all of their time on runs its course, or when consumers and fans simply get bored with what they're producing.  That's why I was excited to see that lighthearted platform puzzler Sleepwalker's Journey was from 11 bit studio - the same company that developed the excellent but polar opposite Anomaly: Warzone Earth, along with the goofy Funky Smugglers.  Not only is Sleepwalker's Journey a good sign of the future health of 11 bit studios, it's also a great game itself that deserves to not be overlooked.

In Sleepwalker's Journey, your job is to guide the somnambulist (thank you, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) Moonboy to his bed through each level.  You do this by manipulating ramps, platforms, cannons, and more so that Moonboy doesn't fall into some sort of lullaby abyss.  Along the way you can collect stars and moons and are racing against the clock; how you handle these two things will determine your final score on the level, adding some replayability if you're determined to get gold medals on each stage.  If you run into any obstacles or miscues you can turn back time to give yourself another go.  While some of the stages are incredibly easy, some are deceptively so, requiring to choose your path carefully and backtrack in order to collect all of the items and get the best score.  This might cause you to go through a level a couple of times but none of them are hardly unbeatable, and after once or twice you'll be able to at least make it to the end, if not gather all of the stars and moons.  You'll occasionally hit a hiccup where you're trying to move a lever or platform and end up accidentally working on a different item, but this is nothing more than a slight annoyance and certainly isn't something that will make or break your experience.

While the concept and gameplay of Sleepwalker's Journey may be simple, the aesthetics are anything but.  The environments are suitably dreamlike, providing almost watercolor-like backgrounds and a soft color palette whose pastels really work to bring things together.  Add in the lullaby-esque soundtrack and the ambiance really draws you in.  The game looks like it could have been pulled straight from a children's book, and it's so well done that you won't mind that you aren't being particularly challenged throughout.

Sleepwalker's Journey isn't a game you should dive into if you're looking for a complex, challenging experience.  11 bit studios is certainly capable of that kind of game, as seen with Anomaly.  However, if you take it for what it is, you'll find a charming, moody, pick-up-and-play game that's a more than welcome addition to the mobile gaming library.  It's good to see 11 bit studios stretching their legs, and I hope we see more variety to come.

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