Sleeping Valley is an arcade platformer created by indie developer White Dog and was released on October 8th, 2016. If you'd like to purchase it, you can visit here and buy it for only $3.99, a fair price. Playing the game, I got vibes of both Limbo based on the graphics and color scheme, and Meat Boy for the difficulty. But how does this game hold up to those ones? Let's find out. But first I'd like to admit something because honesty is the best policy. I haven't actually beaten this game, and I will explain why that is by the end of this review. I would quickly like to point out a reason why I think it's fair, and then we'll move right on to the review.
Believe it or not, the story is actually the high point of this game for me. There is no written story or verbal story, but that doesn't mean the game doesn't have one. From the very beginning you are shown to be chasing after this other white…thing, that looks like you. It provokes mystery and persuades the player to go on further. As you play more you encounter white things that look like you. All of them dead or imprisoned, and it tells the tale of what could very well happen to you. It uses only visuals to tell its story, much like some other games, and I really like it.
Let jump right into the gameplay of this game. The game has very simple controls, and there's nothing wrong with that for a platformer like this, in fact, the simpler the better. The arrow keys control left and right movement, and space is used to jump. That is all fair and good. The game also provides you will the one goal of the game: Avoid white stuff. Short, sweet, and to the point. I like it. When I started playing, I quickly noticed movement felt off, and after a minute or so I finally figured out what it was. Whenever you jump, pressing left or right will cause the player character to move in that direction, non-stop. As it, just tapping the button will make the character continually moving that direction, regardless of if the player is still pressing left or right. It's a bizarre choice and takes some getting used to. I can't say it's necessarily bad, and its foes fit the theme of arcade style platformer, But I think the game could have worked fine with more standard and modern platformer jumping controls.
What about gameplay outside controls? I only got to three areas before stopping, and I dubbed them, in order, the Green Area, the Blue Area, and the Red Area. In the firs two areas, the game is fun, fairly challenging, and provides a decent amount of engagement from the player. The screen above shows a point I greatly enjoy in the game. Given the concept of 'avoid white,' you think to do just that. But what about fire? Fire is dangerous, right? Well, not in this game, and I love that they did it. Fire is normally something you avoid in pretty much any game, but here? It's not white, it's okay. It's a concept I wish they would have used more. It does happen earlier too when black objects rain down from above. It's a nice trick since they don't hurt you.
The Red Area is the hardest I encounter, for good reason seeing as it comes after the first two, but it's hard for all the wrong reasons. I've been in a position of power where I was in charge of deciding whether a platforming stage was a good design or not, so I know what to look for, and the Red Area was not designed well. Whereas the first areas employed solid, fair difficulty, the Red Area is full of fake difficulty. Starting out, you are placed in an area where rocks are flying and bouncing off all the walls in every direction. I've restarted several times, and every single time, you have a second to move, or you're dead. And that wasn't just once, checkpoints later on in the Red Area have the same issue. You restart, and if you don't act instantly, you die. Instant death is one of the cheapest tricks for difficulty. It's not hard, it's unfair.
Speaking of the rocks, they are single handily the most aggravating part of the Red Area. Because of their rapid and spontaneous movement compared to yours, they take away all control of the player. You can't avoid them. You can't block them. You can't do anything except pick a god and pray they miss you. Or at least hit you somewhere other than the white. In a platforming game, taking control away from the player is, by far, the worst thing you can do. It takes away all essence of skill and makes the player rely on luck. There is nothing fun about that.
I'm not even sure if this should be a category because there really isn't any music. Throughout the entire game, only one music track plays.I understand it's meant to create ambiance and atmosphere for the game, but it just doesn't work. The music sounds like darkness, just a quiet dark theme invading your ears. There are no sound effects present, not even when the player dies. The character explodes into pieces, but not a single sound effect is heard. In fact, dying actually cuts the music off for a second, before it starts back again. Music in games should compliment and enhance the gameplay, but in this game, all it does is provide background noise, which I could easily, and would rather, provide myself.
How does the graphics of this game hold up? I honestly have no issues with them.Everything is blocky, objects clip through each other, stuff like that, but I actually feel it works in this game's case. This game clearly isn't going for a modern, HD look to it, and is present and advertised an arcade platformer. In that sense, I think the old style and blocky graphics are a nice charm. Are they perfect? No. Could they be better? Yes. But for what they are, I think they look fine.
When I first started playing the game, I was honestly enjoying it. The first two areas were fun and engaging, and present a good challenge that kept me on my toes thinking. It's by no means the best platformer I've played, but it was just a small little distraction. Getting to the third, Red Area, really killed the game for me, though. Once I hit that area, I stopped having any fun. It became more about luck and endurance of having to restart than actual difficulty. On more than one occasion, I reach further checkpoints in the red area, only to die, restart, and find myself back at the beginning of said area. Having that happen just kills any motivation to keep playing. On that subject, closing the game removes any and all progress, meaning starting it up again makes you start from the beginning. So you either have to do it all in one sitting or leave the game open.
In the Green Area, I was able to easily get above the level and skip a small portion of it. While it didn't matter much, in the long run, having that happen just shows how unpolished this game is. That, and the typo of the game's name on the title screen. For how little text there is in this game, for a typo on the starting screen, the game's name no less, just shows how little polish and care was giving to this game, and I feel that is my biggest issue here. I can accept bad games, so long as the developer really cares and dedicates themselves to it, but this game didn't show me that. It showed me they made something and wanted to out it out.
Outside of gameplay, the music really kills it for me, or should I say the lack of music. It's a bizarre and honestly bad choice to only include that one ambient track. It just brings the game down as a whole and makes me enjoy it less. It's not even that the music is bad itself, it's just the lack of variety. You eventually go deaf to it because it's never changing.
All that being said, the game is selling for only a mere four dollars, and I was able to get at least an hour out of it from gameplay. If you would like to try it and conquer the dreaded Red Area, then, by all means, go ahead.
|+ A decent visual story||– Employs fake difficulty|
|+ The first two areas are well designed and fun||– Absolute lack of music|
|– Lack of polish|