The Sandman, a free horror game created by Uri (The Crooked Man) and translated by vgperson (Alice mare, Ib, and many more), is one of those games designed to make you lie awake at night, questioning every creak and unfamiliar sound. The story follows Sophie, a young girl trapped between the bullies at school and the loneliness at home. With her mother gone and her father usually away on business, Sophie spends most of her time by herself and claims it doesn't bother her... but there is the business of her increasing inability to sleep, and one night, as she lays awake in bed, she hears her clock stop. And as she ventures outside, she discovers that's not even the weirdest thing happening tonight by a long shot.
The controls here are pretty basic. Just use the [arrow] keys to move around, [spacebar] to interact or advance text, and [ESC] to open the inventory and save menu. A small sparkle will sometimes draw your attention to important items, such as the helpful map Sophie discovers early on, but you'll still want to investigate everything on your own to make sure you don't miss anything. Most items need to be used manually from your inventory when you get them. If you've played The Crooked Man, you'll probably recognize some names and places, since this is the second in what Uri calls her "Strange Men Series", but don't worry... if you haven't played The Crooked Man, The Sandman still stands on his own.
Analysis: Uri is one of those rare developers who just seems to get better and better with every release, and The Sandman stands head and shoulders above the rest in almost every way. The Sandman gives better subtle direction than its predecessors, cutting down on a lot of wandering especially with the help of the map, and the puzzles are a lot more creative and fun as well... mostly, apart from some annoying timed sequences and a few unintuitive areas. It'll even prompt you to save before some of the more difficult sequences, though chances are only the final area of the game will pose much trouble. Like all of Uri's games, The Sandman uses sound sparsely, but to tremendous effect, especially now with the inclusion of scant voice acting to up the tension and atmosphere in some scenes, and the art and area design is gorgeous too.
That said, The Sandman is definitely one odd duck. The tone can fluctuate wildly, and things just seem to get crazier the more you play. Most of that is due to the story, which twists and turns in some seriously weird ways as things get increasingly surreal. For some, that's going to be a bit of a disappointment since it actually feels like The Sandman might actually be the most light on horror (and jump scares!) compared to Uri's other games. The latter portion of the game is... different, to say the least, and extremely puzzle-heavy in a way that feels at odds with the more story-centric first half. Stick with it, however, and you'll discover some very clever plot points that take a unique look at mythology. The Sandman is definitely a strange little game, but it's one that's so strange it hooks you in to see how it ends, and with four endings and a bonus, it might not go the way you'd think. Despite not being what you might expect, it's still a creative game, by turns charming and creepy, and well worth a look.
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