Back to Bed Review – The Stairs Are Not What They Seem (PS4)
Back to Bed plays off of the idea that waking a sleepwalker is hazardous to their health, and mixes in what seems to be an abstract interpretation of the dreams the sleepwalker is having. Or is it? Bedtime Digital Games shoved a huge amount of imagination into a little game, making it worthwhile to play this console release of a once mobile title.
The Apple is a Hat
Playing as SuBob, the doglike embodiment of Bob’s subconscious, you guide a sleepwalking Bob through levels full of danger that can wake him up. Mostly, he falls off edges into a dreamy abyss, but later on the dangers include a whale train, walking clocks, and barking dogs. You pick up and place apples to direct Bob, who always turns clockwise when he hits an obstacle. New gameplay mechanics, like walking clocks that can also be guided off edges, are introduced at a perfect pace. The use of perspective and impossible objects is fascinating and sometimes comes as a surprise in puzzles, adding to the charm. I was happy to find no weird remnants of touch controls from the original mobile version, and pleasant use of the sometimes forgotten DualShock 4 speaker capabilities.
The allure of the game lies in the surrealism sewn into to every aspect. It’s simple in its execution but surrounds you with bizarre things that delight and raise it above just a simple puzzle game. The game is heavily inspired by artists like Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher, and there is no mistaking that. The flying hats, whale trains, impossible objects, chess pieces with wings, and lips spewing wind gusts are just a few of the fantastical and bizarre subjects you will come across. If you notice that the graphics seem simple or lesser, also notice that they are meant to be so. The entire game is picturesque and blends into the unique painterly theme that it is supposed to have.
Trying to discern reality from dream is a constant, and was unexpected for me when first starting up the game. Is Bob saying weird things or is that voice just a part of the dream? Is Bob really in danger or is it all a harmless imagination? There are other oddities but I’ll save those for your own playthrough. Okay I lied — one last question. Is it all just a game or is there some deeper meaning?
The Dog Is Not Your Friend
The fact that these questions can arise from a basic puzzle game says a lot about this little gem. The only drawback for me was just that — it is a little gem. There are two dreams to play through, but each only has 15 levels. It was over before I could get a grasp on any possible answers to my esoteric questions. While it was fun to play, and scratched an abstract creative itch that needed scratching, it was over too soon. You can replay both dreams in nightmare mode (in this game, it is an actual nightmare), which adds the challenge of guiding Bob to pick up one or more keys to unlock his bedroom door in each level before going back to bed. Not being a fan of nightmare modes myself, I was sad that I didn’t get to live in this dream world any longer and discover any more of its mysteries.
As a fan of art and games, I enjoyed my stint with Back to Bed. The conversion from mobile to console is perhaps only noticeable in its length, but the surreal art style wowed me, especially on a big screen. It is a tiny game with a unique, yet brief and understated impact.
Back to Bed review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.