11 Bit Studios delivers an outstanding and atmospheric platform game.
To say that Sleepwalker's Journey represents something of a departure for developer 11 Bit Studios is to make quite the understatement. The outfit's last release for mobiles, Anomaly: Warzone Earth, was a twist on the tower-defense genre that put you in the shoes of the aggressor against an alien threat. This new game, on the other hand, is a far gentler, puzzle-platforming affair where you guide a sleepwalker through a dreamscape land so that he can return undisturbed to his slumber.
The game's silent protagonist wanders endlessly from left to right in this beautiful fairytale game. Should he roam into a pillow, he'll perform an about-face and continue walking in the opposite direction. Spread throughout every level are stars and crescent moon symbols, and your score for each stage depends on how many of each you manage to collect.
Things begin simply enough as you steer him from his starting point to the bed that represents the end-point of a level. Finger swipes are used to slide vertical platforms out of his way, for example, so that he can make progress unimpeded. Certain platforms can be moved with your finger, and once he's standing on one of them, you can swipe it along to bring him onto more stable ground. Sloping cutlasses need to be pivoted into place to provide a path to safety too. Even in the early levels, there's plenty to think about, and plenty to plan ahead for.
Once the early days of the game are out of the way, Sleepwalker's Journey wastes no time in throwing new and imaginative mechanics at you. Should our sleeping wanderer fall into a cannon, you'll be able to fire him in new directions. You can even draw tightrope lines between special nodes that will both protect him from a fall, and open up new traveling opportunities.
As with the best platform games, the thrill of Sleepwalker's Journey is found in the imaginative combination of those gently introduced platforming elements. Before long, you're using moveable platforms to block off roaming obstacles, thinking several steps ahead to take in that precious moon on the return pillow journey, and frantically working out what you need to do in the here and now to avoid failure.
A special mention also to be made for the beautiful artwork in the game. Every last detail within Sleepwalker's Journey has been carefully crafted to create a surreal, dreamlike effect with a striking use of color. The soundtrack may be more basic in comparison, but it still does an excellent enough job of rounding off the atmosphere. If we had any real complaint, and it's a minor one, it's that the game is over far too soon, although completionists will certainly get more mileage from it.
Sleepwalker's Journey is that rare game that manages to combine a frightening challenge with a huge amount of accessibility, so that those less obsessed with gathering every last mark of success can still enjoy its delights. Perfectly designed for careful finger-work on touchscreens, this is one of the finest platform games of 2012.
What's Hot: A fantastic and imaginative platform game that really shines on touchscreens.
What's Not: Unless you're the type to obsessively collect every last star and moon, it's a fairly short-lived affair.