Tuesday, August 14

Review: Sleep Tight [Nintendo Switch eShop]

The idea behind Sleep Tight is a relatively simple one that looks fantastic on paper. Combine childhood nostalgia for things like pillow forts and sleepovers with equal parts tower defense and twin-stick shooter, then mix with some strategy and Pixar-esque monsters. In execution the package is a pretty good one, providing for some great opportunities and outright encouragement to play in a variety of different ways. That said, a lack in the variety of environments and overall play experience between runs outside of your specific approach can make its longevity more of a question mark.

To open you’ll start with your default middle-of-the-road kid and the tutorial does a fairly good job of walking you through the basics of your stations, how to research new skills and perks, and how to use defenses. It will also walk you through the general format where every night you’ll have to survive an increasingly-lethal onslaught of monsters with every tenth night being a tougher blood moon. Initially success with general survival or meeting pretty simple objectives will unlock new and different kids, with those on the first tier starting with a different default weapon and those on the second having pretty specific play styles and that are typically unlocked by meeting very specific objectives that involve playing the game in a way that suits their style. Whether this involves surviving many nights without firing a single shot, making heavy investments in research, or firing every weapon at least once these take some work but if you enjoy that style your unlocked kids will generally make it worth your while. There are third tier unlocks which have much more radical effects on the game, like changing the style of play entirely, but those are generally earned more through repeated play in general than specific objectives and serve more as a fun reward for your time invested.

While, in theory, you could opt to go down the middle with moderate investments in both defenses and weaponry for the most part, especially taking into account the various bonuses of the second-tier characters, you’re far better off investing in one direction or another. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, though when the degree of challenge as you get along in nights increases pretty suddenly there may be benefits to going lean and mean, investing mostly in yourself. On that end of the spectrum you can choose to throw your effort into upgrading your weapon of choice fully, with options ranging from a fast-firing gatling gun to a splash damage spewing water balloon gun. You’ll probably also want to invest in keeping yourself perked up with performance boosts, which can give you shields, let you deal more damage, or get extra pick-ups from monsters among other things. Going the opposite direction your goal would be to invest in your defenses, building up walls and a formation of turrets to slow and then dispatch of the monsters for you. If you’re careful to be sure they’re repaired and upgraded as you get the opportunity you can set yourself up with a pretty beefy and formidable defense.

That is until somewhere after the 30th night or so where the degree of challenge pretty quickly goes up and especially if you’ve gone the defensive route you’ll quickly find all of those defenses shredded pretty quickly. Even with research into making the walls stronger and your guns more lethal there’s simply a point where the monsters will overtake it all in pretty short order, generally then being able to remove your defenses faster than you can afford to replenish them. Further making the for building strategy less desirable is the haphazard way things can be placed, creating situations where you’ll then essentially trap yourself or have difficulty placing further defenses. With no ability to move a defensive item once it has been placed, and with you only being able to lay down defenses relative to how you’re holding them out from your character physically, this makes for a real mess as you try to further fortify your defenses. You’ll create bottlenecks and find that walls you placed early on can’t be replaced because the defenses around them will no longer let you position in a way that you can replace them. All of this pretty heavily favors investing in yourself as the weapon, if nothing else in order to simplify, but the challenge surve shifts very rapidly on this end as well, with monsters suddenly getting much tougher and more easily overwhelming you.

Overall there’s quite a bit to like about Sleep Tight, which manages to take a great core idea and do some interesting things with it. That said, it can be a slow burn getting to the point where it can be a serious challenge but then sort of jumps into being too hard too quickly once it decides to step things up. With a sustained campaign easily lasting more than an hour this can make for a bit more dead time getting going than I’d prefer, and the fact that there’s only one bedroom layout then contributes to things feeling too similar too often after a while. With some tweaks I think the experience could be quite a bit better, and I’d love to see a more refined sequel that places greater emphasis on changing things up, with kids all having different bedrooms to help make things a bit more interesting and an improved method of laying out your defenses.

Score: 7

  • A terrific concept, allowing for a mix of tower defense and twin-stick shooting
  • Very nice visuals
  • Unlockable characters push you to try different styles and then give you perks to encourage you to specialize and experiment further

  • In general it is a bit of a slow burn before it gets interesting but then quickly gets overwhelming, could use a better balance
  • For building being such an emphasis once the monster curve ramps up it quickly begins to fail you faster than you can rebuild
  • With haphazard element placement, no ability to move placed defenses, and irregular shapes and sizes building formidable defenses can have unintended challenges and even trap you
  • No variety in your room or the general flow between runs puts it on you to make each game interesting rather than drawing you in with the potential for the unexpected