By Josh Speer / July 31st, 2018
|Developer||We Are Fuzzy|
|Publisher||We Are Fuzzy|
|Release Date||July 26th, 2018|
|Genre||Twin-stick shooter, tower defense|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Fantasy Violence|
I’ve never been afraid of embracing my inner child. There’s something freeing about being as entertained by cartoons as I am by serious drama. So when I was offered an opportunity to review Sleep Tight, a twin-stick / tower defense hybrid that looks heavily inspired by movies such as Monsters, Inc., I couldn’t say no. It was developed by We Are Fuzzy, a team of veterans from Hollywood, Disney and even Ubisoft. How was this venture into the shadowy underbelly of pillow forts and monsters under the bed?
While there is no real story in Sleep Tight, the basic premise should sound familiar. Monsters lurk under the beds of small children, waiting for nightfall to attack. The key difference? These kids aren’t going down without a fight. They arm up with water guns, darts, water balloons and a whole host of silly weapons to wage the fight of their lives. Your only goal is to survive for as long as possible, since there’s only one mode. Thankfully, you’ll gradually unlock more characters, and while they are seemingly the same stat wise, each child comes armed with a unique primary weapon. Also interesting, depending on which kid you pick, that seems to determine the overall difficulty of the game. I would have expected that instead there would be a way to toggle between modes before starting play, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Given that there is only one mode, you may be concerned that the game can get a bit monotonous. While it’s true it does feel a bit one-note after a few hours, first let me discuss the basic loop of the game. You start off at night, using your base weapon to fend off goofy looking monsters. Imagine if Mike and Sully became homicidal, and you have the right frame of mind. Once you survive the initial round and at the end of every attack round you’re rewarded with 8 Suns, and then things switch to the daytime / preparation mode. Those Suns are how you purchase everything from the four stations, set in the corners of the room. These are the Research Station, the Weapons Station, the Health Station and the Defense Station. Here is where you pick up new items, research new defenses, buy health and more. You’ll also unlock Stars every time you beat a monster, which can be cashed in to do important research. This can do things like increase the range at which you can draw in Stars, unlock new defenses such as pillow forts and turrets and also unlock new items to buy. It’s up to you how to spend your hard earned Suns each round. In case you were thinking of being thrifty and hoarding extra Suns to use next round, think again, since the nighttime battle round won’t start until all your Suns have been spent. I was a bit disappointed by this, but I suppose it’s done to keep you from getting too overpowered too fast.
Early on, it’s really important you buy defensive structures to hem the monsters in and slow them down. Eventually you’ll have a whole series of fortifications, but that should take several rounds. It can be difficult to decide between spending Suns on offense as opposed to defense, especially when you realize you don’t have unlimited ammo and have to constantly buy more during the daytime segments. Thankfully, you can ease that financial burden by creating turrets to attack monsters. Just keep in mind that all your defenses can be destroyed, turrets included. The monsters have a nasty tendency to focus on weak points too, slipping through corners to hit your turrets, or dog piling on defensive fortifications to trample them to splinters. Thankfully your four stations are indestructible, so you can incorporate them into your defensive wall.
So far I’ve been discussing the tower defense, but there are elements of twin-stick shooters as well. Each character has a primary weapon, and you aim it with the right joystick while the left is used to move around. The right shoulder buttons fire rounds and switch to your secondary weapon. Just keep in mind whatever you want to wield as a secondary weapon needs to be unlocked from the Research Station first. I honestly usually didn’t have enough Suns to buy a secondary weapon, instead being drawn thin building and repairing structures (you can repair any damaged item for the low cost of one Sun).
Things start out pretty easy but gradually ramp up the longer you play. The farthest I’ve gotten is 25 rounds, after which the game hurled so many monsters at me that I got easily overwhelmed. The basic cyclopean monsters are pretty easy to put down, but the game will also toss tiny, speedy critters and towering brutes that will tear down your defenses in seconds. You’ll also occasionally see green-tinged monsters, and I’m honestly not sure how they differ from basic ones, other than seeming to be a bit more frantic and powerful. For all intents and purposes though, I only encountered three different monster types in my 10 hours or so of gameplay. There might be even more horrors farther on, but if so I never survived long enough to witness them.
Which brings me to one of my complaints about Sleep Tight. While the game plays well and the basic gameplay loop works, I feel it’s heavily weighted against the player. What I mean by that is it’s very easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t perfectly plan your purchases and defensive item placement. More than once defenses I thought perfectly secure had a monster wiggle past a corner to cause me heartache. And while the monsters might not seem that threatening, they can wipe you out in seconds if you get swarmed by a horde. Another complaint I have is that the game never really ramps up in terms of features. Sure, there’s a bunch of characters you can unlock, but they might as well be color swaps since the only difference is their primary weapon and their inherent difficulty (FYI, even on Very Easy the game is anything but). If the kids had unique abilities to differentiate them, I would have been less frustrated by their similarity. Also, given the fantastic art for the game, I really wish there was a story mode of some sort. Playing round after round in the exact same surroundings does wear on you after a time. Hell, even being able to select from different decorations before you play would have eased the monotony.
While I do have some legitimate complaints about Sleep Tight, one area it does pretty well in is the aesthetic design. The models are cute, colorful and distinct, and the still images are overflowing with personality. Likewise the monsters are fun, though I wish they had a bit more variance in design, especially since they’re all the same color, other than the green mutants. The visual interface for the game is sleek and uncluttered, which also helps keep the player invested in surviving a bit longer to the next round.
On the sound side of things, I have a bit more mixed feelings. While the music is charming and has just a touch of menace, the sound effects are a bit messy. I quickly tired of the loud exclamations from the children as I played, and while the grunts of the monsters are fine, they all sound the same. This actually becomes a problem the longer you play, since a low attack grunt whacking away at a couch to minimal effect sounds the same as a giant brute smashing it to pieces. When you factor in how monsters can appear from anywhere on the periphery of the stage, this can quickly become a issue.
Overall, I’m somewhat torn about Sleep Tight. There are things I legitimately enjoyed about the game. It had all the elements it needed to truly be a great new indie hit, but I feel the execution was flawed. I consider myself a huge fan of twin-stick shooters, and as such it’s not a great sign that I started to get a bit bored about five hours in. If it had found a way to have more variety and more of a sense of constantly unlocking content, I feel it would have fared better. As it is now, I can only really recommend it to hardcore fans of twin-stick and tower defense games. Here’s hoping We Are Fuzzy manage to tweak the game after the fact to round things out and add more content. Until that happens though, you might want to consider getting it while on sale.
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
DisneymonstersPCSleep TightSwitchTower DefenseTwin stick shooterUbisoft