“Am I sleeping? Have I slept at all? This is insomnia.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Insomnia: Theater in the Head is a point-and-click puzzle game about a woman who cannot sleep. Players spend the night in the theatre that is her mind, sharing her experiences and thoughts and solving puzzles.
Developer: Perfect Day Studio
Released: 16th December 2022
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Available on: Steam
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Insomnia: Theater in the Head has somewhat minimal gameplay with mouse-only controls. It is presented like a stage play, with acts to divide up the game, which makes up a large portion of the game’s aesthetic theming. A large portion of the experience is spent clicking through dialogue between the protagonist and a gnome-like compere that seems to represent the voice in her head. This is sporadically broken up by a selection of small minigames and puzzles, including logic-based conundrums, jigsaw-type puzzles and creative tasks. There is a hint system available though the puzzles are not particularly challenging for the most part. They are, however, satisfying and varied enough to keep things interesting and add a nice level of interactivity to the game.
The game begins by taking the player through the monotony of not sleeping night after night, watching the protagonist make her way through the day with lifeless eyes, only half present, then tossing and turning in bed with intrusive noises and thoughts. It is a dramatic intro and sets the scene well for the night to come.
The dialogue between the protagonist and the very cute gnome is well-written and does a good job of conveying the distress inherent in insomnia. Similarly, the protagonist’s actions, from the constant checking of the time to racing thoughts that turn into active distractions, illustrate the same despair and help tell an emotional tale. The mini-game and puzzles tie into the story and represent the protagonist’s struggle. There are a few translation issues but they are minor and do not detract too much from the narrative’s otherwise eloquent delivery.
Insomnia: Theater in the Head has a unique and beautiful hand-drawn 2D art style with a slightly sketchy feel to it. Colour palettes are dominated by moody blues and purples with warmer shades to indicate lighting creating a nice contrast. There are a number of art styles and mediums displayed throughout the course of the game too, such as cubism and coloured pencil drawings which is a lovely addition and fits in well with the creative themes within the game.
The music is incredibly varied and goes from gentle piano and strings to lullabies to jaunty upbeat tracks that all fit well with the different acts of the game. The sound effects are wonderfully implemented and really emphasise the protagonist’s battle with sleep. Whether it’s the ticking of a clock, traffic or birds outside, or the beating of her heart there is some sound domineering and distracting.
Overall, Insomnia: Theater in the Head is a charming but meaningful game that really puts the player in the shoes of the protagonist. It boasts stunning and varied visual and audio elements, an intriguingly personal narrative that is well delivered and fun, stress-free puzzles to entertain and add interactivity. The game will only take around 1-2 hours to complete but has a lot to offer in its short playtime and is well worth its low price tag. I highly recommend this to fans of point-and-click puzzle games with a strong narrative focus.
For more puzzle games with a mental health focus, check out these reviews:
Pants Quest – Puzzles and Struggles in this Everyday Adventure – Before I Forget: Upcoming and Emotional Exploration Game – Stilstand: An Insightful Portrayal of Loneliness