Back to Bed is a puzzle game from fledgling developer Bedtime Digital Games. You play as a green, subconscious guardian that must guide its own body/master, called Bob, back to bed in a series of puzzling levels. Whilst the premise alone sounds strange, the levels, and even the cutscenes, are stranger still, with a design that borrows mannerisms from M.C. Escher's artwork; Back to Bed is a game that's both odd to explore, and even weirder to understand.
The gameplay is, at first, fairly basic, with Bob constantly walking in a straight line until he encounters an obstacle, at which point he then rotates clockwise and continues walking. It’s this seemingly simple gameplay mechanic that will soon become the bane of your existence as the game goes on, as you have to navigate each level as quickly as possible to ensure that Bob doesn’t fall off the edge of the level and instead makes it to his bed safely.
You’ll frequently block Bob’s progress using apples that can be found in the levels, picked up, and then placed in Bob's way. Some levels contain numerous apples while others force you to constantly pick up a specific apple and move it around the level as Bob walks on, clueless as to what's happening around him. Eventually you'll come across a second item that you can use to carefully manipulate Bob’s progress through a level: a fish. The fish can act as a bridge across part of the stage, so that it’s now not only the stage you have to concern yourself with, but the gaps in-between too.
New enemies are encountered as the game progresses, ramping up the difficulty level. Enemies in Back to Bed make it their job to wake Bob up, and include objects like alarm clocks and creatures like wolves. Each enemy type follows its own set pattern which you'll need to learn so that you can start adapting your tactics, moving Bob through levels so that he doesn’t run into them.
Back to Bed's control scheme on iOS and Android can take a while to get used to. A finger placed in any direction away from Bob’s unconscious green man will him walk in that direction. Whilst this sounds perfectly fine in theory, in reality climbing up walls using stairs and trying to precisely place apples in Bob’s way whilst you don’t have much time to act is not an easy task. This shouldn’t be an issue for Steam users, but it is definitely worth noting if you intend to purchase the game on an iOS or Android platform.
The art style and audio design in Back to Bed is both creepy and enticing. I found myself continuing to play just so that I could explore the game's style a little bit more, which is a rare feeling. Sound design in particular can often be an afterthought in the gaming industry, but in Back to Bed it matches the game's overall tone and style so perfectly that you can’t help but feel that it's a truly integral part of the experience.
Whilst the main game can be completed in just a couple of hours, Back to Bed offers “Nightmare” levels that require Bob to get a key before he can progress through the door that leads to his bed and the end of the level. These nightmare levels are both terribly hard and place a nice twist on stages you’ve already explored in the game, ensuring players that love strategy will be coming back for more.
Back to Bed is a charming and certainly unique game in today's gaming environment. Parallels to Monument Valley are always going to happen when a game takes on an art style like this, but the strategy involved in manipulating a character that you have no direct control over is a great hook which should keep puzzle fans enticed and entertained. I enjoyed my time with Back to Bed, and would recommend it to anyone who played and was enthralled by Monument Valley; you may well be in for a pleasant surprise.
This review is based on a digital copy of Back to Bed for the iOS, provided by the publisher.