Sleepin’ Guy was originally released as Suicide Guy, but you suspect that someone saw sense and dispensed with the dubious taste. Released in 2017 on PC, it was a modest success for its developer Chubby Pixel, who dipped their toe into console with its sequel, 2020’s Sleepin’ Deeply. Now they’re re-releasing the one that started it all – under the new Sleepin’ name – as a Deluxe Edition with seven extra levels and some Xbox Series X|S enhancements.
The story centres around the titular Sleepin’ Guy who drops asleep on the sofa, only to lose grip on the beer he was holding. He’s not one to waste a beer, so – watching on from a dream-state hub that looks like an American diner – he makes it his mission to wake himself up and catch it, as the beer is tumbling slowly in an Inception fashion. So, and this is where the ‘suicide’ comes in, the only way to wake up is to shock himself awake by killing himself.
Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition is structured as 31 independent levels, all with their own theme. They’re concise sandboxes where you will be hunting for a painful and shocking death – be that a dragon, nuclear blast or airlock – and plotting a path to get there.
There’s a fun, channel-hopping approach to these levels, as they swallow up several genres and references. One level is a Mario rip-off, full of question mark blocks and piranha plants. Another is a riff on Untitled Goose Game, but the goose keeps nabbing stuff that might have helped you to die. There’s a fantasy level, a gingerbread village level, a Ratatouille homage and a hadron collider.
While we wouldn’t go so far to say that Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition looks spectacular on Series X|S, it has a sparse but colourful charm, like you’re playing in an adult soft-play. It’s easy to spot the various things you can pick up and throw, and finding the method of death is usually obvious. It’s the getting there that’s difficult.
There’s charm, too, in the solution to every puzzle being a grisly death. It actually calms everything down a bit: in your average game, death is a thing you have to avoid, but here it’s the Holy Grail. So you stop worrying about it and play. It’s not something we’ve done all-too-often either. Looking for a skyscraper to throw yourself off is an impulse we’ve thankfully never had, and it has a certain joy.
But while the setup is great, the execution is off. It rarely felt satisfying to tinker with Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition’s world. If you follow it back to the source, most of its problems are down to its game engine. It can’t support the ideas that Chubby Pixel keeps stacking on top of it, and eventually crumbles.
Chubby Pixel believe that they’ve made a platformer. Inbetween the death devices, there are timed platforms, moving platforms and a fair number of difficult crevasses to jump. But the controls are slippy, and – being first-person – it’s often hard to read where the lip of the ledge is. Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition chucks in a ‘grab’ that means you can heave yourself back onto platforms if you miss them, but there’s a roughly 50/50 chance that it will trigger. Blocks that are slightly off-centre are the biggest culprit of this, and it can get you yanking out tufts of hair, particularly when there are time limits. It might have simplified things too much, but we’d have stripped out the platforming altogether.
Worse is the block-stacking. If there’s anything Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition likes more than platforming, it’s the careful stacking of blocks, crates and pillows on top of each other to create makeshift staircases. But they feel like they’re crates of glitching rabbits. Place them even a pixel out of joint and they vibrate, giving you no purchase for grabbing them. They can spin onto an edge and stay there permanently, an annoying diamond that you can’t jump onto. Crates slips, slide and tumble at the merest of touches. Level 11, where you drive a forklift truck and attempt to create causeways with crates, is a special brand of torture.
And for every level that has you nodding with appreciation as the realisation hits – ah, I have to eat myself to death – there’s another that feels like a reach. The dragon level is a microcosm of the game’s logic problems: you have to wake a sleeping dragon so he roasts you. That bit’s clear enough. Some of the items you need are clear too: there’s an alarm clock on an overhang, a washing machine at the back of the level. But, for some reason, there are red-herring items, like a toilet that you can flush, and no indication of how many items you will need to wake the beast. It took us an age to realise there was the tiniest of holes by the dragon’s armpit that we could crawl into and grab a klaxon. You can’t jump into most of the other game’s little nooks, so it never quite registered. It’s this clumsiness of approach that kept nibbling at us.
With 31 levels to play, each taking up to twenty minutes each, and a collectible (very rarely well hidden) on every one of them, there’s a fair amount of play here. You’d struggle to find a reason to replay, but that’s fine: we’d judge this to be decent value at £7.49 for a single runthrough.
Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition has a cracking idea and knows what to do with it. It’s a game with the goal of killing yourself, and it constructs fun playgrounds for you to search out that rocket launcher or train crash that will gib you. But there’s a nagging feeling Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition is writing cheques that its game engine can’t cash. This is an awkward, clumsy game to play, with physics and platforming that make you feel like you are playing with your shoelaces tied together. It may be the Deluxe Edition, but you are often left wondering if it was made with budget materials.
You can buy Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S