Have You Played… Sleepwalker?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

The early 90s were a good time for games about preventing stupid entities from getting themselves killed. Lemmings was the leading light, of course, with the likes of Sink or Swim and The Humans on its heels, while the less fondly-remembered Sleepwalker plowed a similar furrow via puzzle-platforming. I was briefly obsessed by it, even though I didn’t enjoy the game itself at all.

Whether the main character was the titular somnambulist or his bipedal dog who attempted to steer him out of the way of obstacles during his unconscious forays into danger is up for debate. Certainly though, it shares with Lemmings the concept of keeping someone inept alive, as opposed to getting a player-character to the level’s end. Conceptually, I still think Sleepwalker’s not far short of genius, this idea of altering the world rather than the controlling the character in order to ensure their survival.

I’ve tried (and thus far failed) to get a couple of games off the ground using similar conceits, though those would have involved the player directly controlling the world around the character rather than, as was the case here, making a cartoon dog push some things around. They wouldn’t, I hope, have been as frustrating and repetitive and instant death-y as Sleepwalker was either, which was always my moral struggle with it.

I’d bought it, I’d invested in the idea of its brilliance thanks to heavy promotion from that year’s Comic Relief campaign (for a couple of years, Comic Relief was the highlight of my calendar, prompting me to perform small charity stunts and to VHS-record then obsessively rewatch the annual TV show), and I told myself time and time again that this was The Videogame. But I couldn’t, in fact, stand it when I played it, and it took some weeks before I could admit that to myself.

And yet, even today, some tiny part of my brain continues to believe that Sleepwalker was the game to end all games. When will I awake from my own strange dream?

15 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I think I played The Humans quite a bit. I recall it being frustrating.

    This looks much worse.

    • Da5e says:

      The Humans came with a really nice little comic book, I seem to recall. Game was a bit duff though.

  2. Optimaximal says:

    dingadingdangmydangalonglinglong!

    • Shazbut says:

      That was the cheat code right?

    • sonofsanta says:

      I am so glad I am not the only one with neurons wasted on remembering this twenty years later. Gotta be quick when typing it, so the red nose turns green!

  3. Baf says:

    Hm, this reminds me a bit of Back to Bed (link to store.steampowered.com). Does anyone know if it took inspiration from it directly?

    • April March says:

      I thought the same thing! And I liked Back to Bed quite a bit.

  4. Beefenstein says:

    Have you played Sleep John Walker?

  5. Beefenstein says:

    I really enjoyed Sleepwalker (on the Amiga) and I believe I was able to complete it, but I do remember it becoming quite difficult.

    My favourite Amiga platformer was probably Flashback, although I completed The Addams Family regularly while my brother watched. I think it took about 90 minutes.

    • PostieDoc says:

      Loved Flashback, hated Sleepwalker.
      Amiga for life!

      • Shazbut says:

        The second level of Flashback could almost be a prototype for immersive sim game design

  6. Paul B says:

    Certainly though, it shares with Lemmings the concept of keeping someone inept alive.

    If I recall, the game Brat on the Amiga, had a similar conceit, and was similarly hard as well.

    I think, generally, games were much harder back then. At least, it seems that way when I play them again on WinUAE. That, or more likely, my 12-year old brain was much sharper then it is now :)

  7. Maxheadroom says:

    I imagine this one will be light on comments. Worked in a local computer shop when this came out and couldn’t shift the bastards. Eventually they went in the bargain bin for like 3 quid or something

  8. geldonyetich says:

    Looks like I missed this gem. It probably didn’t make it to my part of the world. Shame about that, a platformer with genuinely unique mechanics! On the other hand, I suppose it succeeded at being one long escort quest in ways that only an earlier game could.

  9. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Sounds kind of similar to Pac-Man 2 The New Adventure for the SNES where you didn’t control Pac-man but used a slingshot to interact with the world to manipulate him.