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This surreal iPad game blends Donald Duck and Salvador Dali

This surreal iPad game blends Donald Duck and Salvador Dali


'Back to Bed' lets you sleepwalk through a dreamworld

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In 1947's "Sleepy Time Donald," Donald Duck goes about his day while sleepwalking. He gets out of bed, puts a boot on his head instead of a hat, and ventures over to Daisy's house to take her out on a date. (She plays along because she's worried that waking him could have "fatal" results.) Later on, when he stumbles into a large brick building, instead of hitting his head he just starts walking up the wall as if it that were a perfectly normal thing to do. Klaus Pedersen and his team thought that would make for a perfect video game. Back to Bed, which launched earlier this month on Steam and is available today for iPad, blends this idea with the world of Surrealist art to create a fantastically unique experience. It's Walt Disney meets Salvador Dali in the form of an original and charming puzzle game.

The game’s concept is identical to Donald's misadventure: Bob is sleepwalking through a dreamworld, and he'll walk into any danger unless you help him. You play as a strange little dream animal called Subob, and you can control Bob's movement by placing objects in his way. Whenever Bob hits a roadblock he turns right, and in each level you need to guide him to the end safely. The challenge comes not just from the layout of each stage — which can include some mind-bending M.C. Escher-style architecture with lots of dangerous ledges — but numerous other obstacles as well. There are walking alarm clocks that will wake Bob up if he gets too close, causing you to fail, and vicious mouths built right into the floors.

Left: Salvador Dali's The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory; Right: Back to Bed

The surreal art, which includes Dali mainstays like melting clocks and lots of fish, is meant to further enhance the main theme. "The gameplay mechanics should come from dreams, the art should come from dreams," explains Pedersen. "Everything connects back to this holistic design approach around dreams." Back to Bed started life as a student project at the Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment, and in March 2013 the team launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $13,000 to fund development. "It's the same premise," Pedersen says of how Back to Bed has changed and evolved since he was still a student. "But it's the details that make the difference." The final version features 30 levels across two worlds, as well as a more difficult mode for those looking for an added challenge.

"It's not about the puzzles."

Back to Bed's wonderfully confusing architecture is likely to draw comparisons to Monument Valley, another mobile puzzle game featuring levels inspired by Escher. But the actual experience of playing the two games is very different. Monument Valley is about understanding the world around you so you can navigate through it, whereas Back to Bed is about figuring out how to make Bob do exactly what you need.

The two do have one very important thing in common, though, and that's a relatively leisurely pace that makes it easy to enjoy the beautifully rendered worlds. Some may be disappointed with the relatively short length and lack of challenge in Back to Bed, but the setup is intentional. "It's not about the puzzles," says Pedersen, "it's about the whole game experience." There are a few moments in Back to Bed where you have to act quickly, but mostly it's about careful planning and observation. It's a place you can get lost in for hours or just a few minutes at a time, making it a perfect match for your Sunday morning coffee. You can check out Back to Bed now on Steam ($5.99) and iOS ($3.99).

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