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  • Writer's pictureNate Hermanson

SGF 2024 x Steam Next Fest Mini-Preview: A lucid dreaming horror gem awaits in Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of the Forsaken

Follow along with our continued coverage of the many free demos that hit Steam for Summer Game Fest and Steam Next Fest in June.

There's something so naturally horrifying about dream-based horror: the vulnerability of sleep, the subconscious' ability to summon your most horrifying nightmares at a moment's notice, and the worry that when you go pee in the dream, you go pee for real. Terrifying stuff.

Genuinely, though, the realm of sleep has so much to be scared of, and Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of the Forsaken looks to leverage that to the fullest in its point-and-click psychological horror.

After playing their Steam Next Fest demo, I can confirm the vibes are just right for this follow-up to the famous horror web game series.

The Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of the Forsaken key art. A blonde woman with green eyes looks over her shoulder while pointing a flashlight forward into a strange landscape in front of her. Melting clocks can be seen embedded within a gigantic tree. Other structures off in the distance house strange shadowy beasts who peer out at the woman. The game's title overlays over the left side of the image.

Just the Facts

Developer: scriptwelder

Publisher: Armor Games Studios

Platform(s): PC, Switch

Release Date: TBA

Demo accessed via Steam Next Fest.

Polish game dev scriptwelder has been working on the Deep Sleep series since 2012. Starting as a flash game series published on the likes of Newgrounds and Armor Games, Deep Sleep ended up being an entire trilogy of horror point-and-clicks released over the course of two years.

Heading into 2024, the series takes a giant leap forward with this standalone entry, Labyrinth of the Forsaken. It ditches pure 2D pixel art for this fascinating 2D-3D effect that looks like a classic Sierra game if you stand completely still but shows its depth the minute you start moving. It uses incredible lighting and fog effects to make each environment that much more horrifying. It blends in surprising turn-based combat that sees you utilizing your usual inventory of odds and ends to fight back encroaching nightmares. And with the lucid dreaming setup, it has you taking hold of the dream-land in front of you to shift it to your advantage.

It's tip-top stuff, y'all.

In Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of the Forsaken, players control Amy, a young woman searching for her brother — a sibling she thought was dead, whose terrifying dream world she finds herself exploring and haunted by. When she lands in the dream, she stumbles into a mysterious guide: a voice on a phone who seems to know how this realm works and whose goals align with hers. The two of them quickly agree to team up to get her through and to find her brother, shadow demons and skeletal beasts be damned.

The demo offers up the tiniest snippet of this story — my full playtime wrapped up somewhere around 16 minutes — but showcases the strange liminal spaces that make up its dream world to great effect. A hotel lobby is attached to a jail cell that leads into an industrial room full of pipes. It beautifully captures that disorienting experience of walking through a dreamscape, and Amy's constant fogginess as she explores perfectly synchronizes with the player's.

Throughout the demo, it emphasizes how the dream Amy's inhabiting is not her own, how the longer she stays the more they begin to pay attention. The questions the demo sets up have me hooked for more. The trailer that plays at the end shows Amy ending up in a fantasy-tinged forest, an abandoned city street, and even eventually facing off against a winged god-like beast... so the full game is going to take you on quite the ride.

It beautifully captures that disorienting experience of walking through a dreamscape, and Amy's constant fogginess as she explores perfectly synchronizes with the player's.

An animated GIF of Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of Fate. It depicts a dialogue scene. A blonde woman wearing a green gemstone necklace stares forward in a character portrait to the left. Text unfurls reading: "This is... a dream..." Her name is Amy.

Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of the Forsaken is an interesting homage to the point-and-click genre, eschewing the strict constraints the genre may be known for — and that Labyrinth's predecessors were certainly happy to fit within — for something that instead embraces modern design sensibilities and hallmarks of other genres.

For starters, you can either play Labyrinth of the Forsaken with traditional pointing and clicking to navigate Amy around her dream-like environments or you can smoothly move her about with WASD or a controller in hand. Obviously this is not a brand new concept, but one that helps further bring you into the fear of directly controlling Amy's movements through these horrifying spaces... particularly when the demo's final moments sees you being chased by some strange beast. The game even looks to play with your fear responses, such as an ominous wet floor sign in the hotel environment that seemed to be begging me to try sprinting through it.

One of the most interesting aspects of their approach to point-and-click problem-solving is how it plays with the concept of your inventory. Important items have durability. You have choices to make about where and when to use them to solve puzzles, potentially losing them permanently and creating a direct effect on choices further down the line. We all remember the pain of classic Sierra adventure games requiring players to know to pick up some key item in the first room of the game, lest they be locked out of being able to finish the game, let alone finish an individual puzzle. And in some ways, Labyrinth of the Forsaken honors that by allowing you to lose otherwise deeply important items.

How do you work around that? Well, here's where the dreamscape itself becomes an important setting. At any point, since Amy is aware of being in a dream, she can use up some focus to conjure up "imaginations" and bring certain items back. In the demo, you break a skeleton's arm bone in a combat sequence (which I'll get into below) and find that you needed it to solve a puzzle in that same room. It adds a lot more choice and consequence to the traditional point-and-click puzzle solving concept and even has me wondering how many unique solutions there are to puzzles in the full game.

I'd also be interested to see just how much that concept of taking control of the dream manifests all throughout, because that idea has so much potential, and scriptwelder leverages it well in the demo already.

An animated GIF of Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of Fate. It depicts the usage of the game's inventory. It starts with a grid-based inventory screen and a cursor hovers over a crowbar, clicking on the "use item" option that pops up afterward. It then cuts to show a woman in the middle of a crosswalk lifting off and moving a manhole. A stalled out taxi and flashing construction barriers can be seen.

It adds a lot more choice and consequence to the traditional point-and-click puzzle solving concept.

One of the most surprising parts of the demo comes in the back half when a horrifying beast emerges from a furnace and a turn-based combat phase begins. With the free motion and the ability to sprint, I wholly expected to be running away from monsters, not going toe to toe with them in combat. Having to use important tools (like crowbars and hammers) in combat, you risk their durability and need to make those interesting kinds of decisions that point-and-clicks don't usually ask of you.

The game's trailer even seems to show that you can spend experience points on specific skills to increase your inventory size, health total, and combat mastery. It's an angle I didn't expect whatsoever, and makes me that much more curious to hop into the full release ASAP.

Labyrinth of the Forsaken's puzzles are fairly stock standard so far. They mainly focus on things like examining the items in your inventory in 3D space to find hidden buttons and items. The demo is definitely more of a tone setter, but I'm confident scriptwelder has some fun tricks up his sleeve with the dreamy systems feeding directly into some tricky puzzle solving. (And hell, the guy's got seven full critically acclaimed point-and-clicks under his belt at this point, so surely he knows his stuff.)

An animated GIF of Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of Fate. It shows a variety of scenes that are focused on the main character exploring in the dark. It opens with a woman walking up to a skeleton in a dimly lit street. When she reaches it, it crumbles instantly. It then cuts to a scene inside a brightly lit clothing store. Suddenly the lights go out and the woman pulls out a flash light to see where she's going. It then cuts again to a room full of mannequins and a woman exploring it with her flashlight pointed in the darkness. From her right, a mannequin approaches, shambling forward with unnatural movement.

Stumbling into the world of Deep Sleep with this tiny slice of Labyrinth of the Forsaken feels like such a treat. It's thrilling finding an entire series of work to dive into while also looking forward to the incredible potential of what looks to be scriptwelder's biggest game yet. And getting to hopefully make that same introduction for more folks? It's what doing this whole VGG thing's all about.

Deep Sleep fans, let me know where to start. I'm all in.

Deep Sleep: Labyrinth of the Forsaken has no announced release date yet, but seems to have been pushed out of 2023 to release sometime this year. At least I hope so. Check out the demo yourself and wishlist it if you're ready to take the dream world into your own hands later this year.


See more of our Steam Next Fest demo mini-previews to learn about upcoming games! There are several deeper dives like this one, or for more bang for your buck, check out our quick-hitter demo round-ups spotlighting a curated selection of multiplayer games, tactics games, and puzzle games.


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