A child’s overactive imagination can be the scariest place in the universe. It’s where ungodly specters are given demonic form or where your run-of-the-mill toaster can suddenly unplug itself from the wall, grow arms and go to town on your ankles with a butter knife.
This is not the videogame developer Touchfight Games has made. Go to Bed: Survive The Night is a “bedroom defense” game that instead smacks of cutesy horror, the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas and “Monster Mash.” While this decision may disappoint at first, it makes a certain kind of sense: a simple aesthetic for what is ultimately a simple game.
The chief problem that most tower defense games face is how they often fail to draw the player into the game and make them forget that they are clicking a mouse repeatedly. Games designed to be escapist fantasies have to make the input device (whether it’s a mouse or a controller) more than simply an input device. A good first person shooter, like Half-Life or Wolfenstein, will make the mouse’s buttons feel like a trigger. Diablo 3 turns tapping a button into swinging a sword or axe into a demon’s skull. Obviously using a button isn’t the same as shooting a gun or swinging a weapon, but the consequences of using that button (the right combination of sound effects and character animations, for example) can make it feel like you are. This is also true in certain strategy games where the consequences play out in subtler ways, like when a simple click takes the place of timely diplomatic words that prevent a deadly war.
For me, tower defense games have almost always been chained to the mouse. I never find myself truly lost in such a game the way I am in Civilization or Starcraft . There’s always an awareness that I am a body with a finger rapidly clicking a mouse button to keep enemies from reaching a certain point, even in the more unorthodox ones, like Orcs Must Die, where you’re actually a person roaming a 3D environment, setting traps for the oncoming horde of eponymous orcs.
In this regard, Go to Bed is neither exceptional nor remarkable. A boy goes to bed, but he can’t sleep because shadowy monsters creep toward him. Your job is to click the baddies to make them go poof and keep him safe until the timer in each stage runs down. If enough shadows reach the boy, he perishes. The game introduces some items that add a superficial level of strategy, such as a store between stages where you can buy light (used to hinder or even destroy baddies) or an extra life for the boy with spiders you collect during each stage. As you progress through the stages, faster enemies appear. Later levels throw in some tricks to try and shake things up (like the player having to keep light bulbs lit while simultaneously fending off monsters), but you’re still essentially just clicking objects as they appear on the screen to make them go away. Truth be told, except for the splendid black and white art direction and stellar, gloomy soundtrack (included with the purchase of the game), it’s all rather dull.
It is worth nothing that Touchfight Games has stated that this is the beta version of the game. It includes the story campaign and an unlockable challenge mode called “Mum Rush.” Updates will add a second campaign that “offers a surprising twist, new foes and much more!” However, I don’t see how any of the updates that Touchfight has planned could fix that the core of the game is just irritatingly repetitive. Even on the harder stages, where the game threw tons of quick enemies at me, I just didn’t care one iota if they killed me.
Go to Bed: Survive the Night has an interesting premise and presentation, but that’s where everything noteworthy about the game ends. For all of its quirky charm and promise, it is still a game that cannot escape the trappings of its genre. The only incentive to play on was the admittedly cool stage transitions, but those aren’t nearly enough to justify the game’s level of repetition.
Javy Gwaltney devotes his time to writing about these videogame things when he isn’t teaching or cobbling together a novel. You can follow the trail of pizza crumbs to his Twitter.