The dream-like quality and relaxing pace to Sleepwalker’s Journey seems a big departure from the usual fare of developer 11 bit studios, who previously made tower-defense hit Anomaly Warzone Earth and upbeat arcade-action game Funky Smugglers, but you wouldn’t think so from playing it — it’s every bit as polished and enjoyable as something you’d expect from an expert puzzle-platform game developer.
Sleepwalker’s Journey is about a sleepwalking boy called Moonboy and his adventures through his dreams. As his guardian, you manipulate objects in the dream to ensure he returns safely to his bed. It’s a charming, beautiful, purple-infused journey, well worth your time and attention.
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Return the Stars to the Sky
The stars have fallen from the sky, and you must help Moonboy return them to their rightful place. He sleepwalks his way through levels, while you slide platforms and pillows into place to ensure he stays unharmed. Each level requires that you get Moonboy safely to his bed. Along the way, you pick up stars and moons. There are three moons per level, but the number of stars varies.
You get a rating of gold, silver, or bronze according to the number of stars and moons you collect. There’s a timer, which appears as a small clock in the upper left corner and makes a ticking noise 10-15 seconds before it runs out. If you take too long, your rating gets knocked down a notch. There’s no strict time limit, however — you can take as long as you need to finish a level.
In keeping with the bedtime mood, Sleepwalker’s Journey has a relaxed pace to it — although you can always press on the fast-forward button to speed things up. Moonboy ambles along, oblivious to the dangers that lie ahead, never stopping until he finds the safety of his bed. There’s a rewind button that let’s you correct mistakes or missed opportunities by reversing Moonboy’s journey a short distance. It’s handy in a tight spot, but keep in mind that the clock keeps ticking as you do this.
Death comes in two forms: either Moonboy falls off the level, or a ghost gets him. If you’re eager to collect all the stars, this may happen fairly often. However, most players concerned merely with the core “from A to B” puzzle should be able to make it through to the end on the first try. When you die, you can either revert to a point a few seconds before you met your grizzly end, or restart the level.
Sleepwalker’s Journey offers three worlds, each consisting of 15 levels. The developers plan to add more soon, but for now you’re looking at a few hours play on the first run-through — with decent replay value for the completists and collection-obsessed among you. Levels are complicated enough that you don’t necessarily feel like you’ve “solved” them. There are often several possible pathways to the end, and the journey is long enough that you’ll probably forget some details. No repeat runs will spring major surprises on you about what twists lie ahead, but it’s skill-based moreso than it is logic-based.
Later levels are much harder than early ones. New concepts get layered onto old ones. Where initially you need worry only about laying the path before Moonboy, soon you’ll need to actively slide platforms while he’s walking on them. You’ll come across hazards that must be moved out of the way, or passed at just the right time. Pillows turn him around, while cannons shoot Moonboy across gaps or straight up into the air. Some walkways must be drawn. The third world brings ghosts and sticky platforms that can be walked on upside down. There are also fans and a few other things that all eventually interweave into the level design.
If that sounds a bit intimidating, don’t worry — the journey from simple to complex level design is a smooth one, and you’ll have plenty of time to master each element before the next one is introduced. Sleepwalker’s Journey is only frustrating if you insist on perfection; otherwise it’s a delightful romp through 45 dreams.
Dreaming in Purple and Violet
Sleepwalker’s Journey has a lot of purple and violet hues. Many backgrounds are a watercolor blend of purples and blues, with little cut-out stars; others are more of an under-the-sea green with touches of purple. Moonboy himself is decked out in a purple nightgown and hat. Purple dominates the level selection screen, too. And most objects in the game have some shade of purple mixed in them. It’s a beautiful game, provided you like those colors.
The pillows that reverse your direction, along with moons, your bed, and your medals all have happy sleeping faces painted on them. Cannons open their eyes when Moonboy walks into them. There’s a lovely hand-drawn, children’s story quality to both static graphics and animations, and the purple theme is a fine unifying thread. Sleepwalker’s Journey uses purple tastefully, but it would be nice to see more blues and reds and greens to add variety to the visual scene.
The music and sound effects are suitably dreamy and soothingly pleasant, with a warm-sounding ambient score and gentle piano and orchestral melodies. They’re unlikely to put you to sleep, though, despite the sleeping and dreaming theme of the game.
A Charming Adventure
It’s easy to be charmed by Sleepwalker’s Journey. Each level is a fun and relaxing journey through Moonboy’s dreams, with enough busywork that you feel engaged but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. Its puzzles are mostly just a matter of paying attention and planning ahead — you’ll often pass by an alternate path only to realize that it led to a moon or a bunch of stars.
Sleepwalker’s Journey is, suitably enough, a great game to play when you’re tired or in bed. The gentle hues of its visuals combine with an easy-going pace and a charming style that together draw you into its world of dreams.