Sleep Is Death isn’t so much a game as a new storytelling medium. There are no points to be scored or power-ups to speak of: It’s just you and another player, improvising your way through the narrative, trading off turns that last a mere 30 seconds for as long as both parties are willing. As your annoying friend who does improv will tell you, the guideline of “yes, and” permeates every facet of real life whether you realize it or not. Especially here, even though half the fun of playing against total strangers online seems to be subverting the storyteller’s vision.
Being the controller lets you enact literally anything you want, provided you can make it happen before the counter reaches zero and it’s the other guy’s turn. This is hampered somewhat by the intimidating interface, which is accessible, but misleadingly robust, and with a sizable learning curve. (Its search function is also illogical and spotty.) And unless you have a compelling story plotted out beforehand or are unwilling to bend, expect to make mistakes that the other player will happily exploit. That isn’t a bad thing: It’s a give-and-take that assures the actions unfolding are honest, unless you’re a total dick content to yank out the rug by tossing a “the end” screen at the other guy for having the audacity to express his own reactions and not follow along with the invisible script.
Ultimately, Sleep Is Death is as gripping or uninteresting as those playing it; it's a digital canvas for people’s imagination and a window into their personalities. No two games are alike, and there’s no way to know what awaits either participant when a round gets underway. Sleep Is Death cleverly encourages you to play more games by transferring all the items used in a story from controller to player, so the more creations you see, the more you can use. Recounting Sleep Is Death sessions is a bit like babbling about your dreams to your friends: They’ll only care if they were involved. But by working together and just rolling with the punches, you can make some of the craziest shit imaginable happen: being a bouncer at the Pearly Gates; arguing your innocence in a murder trial over your dead clone; having hipster cops talk down a potential suicide by loaning him their record collection; or making a quiet visit to a snake-filled zoo. It’s all up to you.
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