Title: Little Nightmares
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Genre: Platformer, Horror
Official Site: https://www.little-nightmares.com/us/
Release Date: April 27, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam
Little Nightmares likes to get in your head. Why is the world built for big people, when you are so small? Why is everyone so grotesque looking? Why is the controller shaking – is there a bad guy just around the – OH YES HE’S RIGHT THERE GET AWAY, GET AWAY.
It also occasionally likes to say, “Do you have a badass gaming computer? Too bad, we’re crashing to desktop.”
Yes, Little Nightmares (for me anyway) isn’t the most stable thing in the world. Judging from my Google-fu, it is the same for several others. It’s a big enough release that it will probably be fixed in no time, and I would still recommend it to anyone who likes a good, disturbing yarn.
Little Nightmares is a game all about atmosphere. It is comparable to games like Limbo and Inside; there are moments of jump out of your seat horror, but it is mostly scary because of the situations the game puts you in. It is a game all about being vulnerable in a scary world: you have to pick your time to move in order to avoid enemies and save your skin and, for the most part, it delivers.
Again, comparisons to Inside and Limbo are unavoidable. This is a semi puzzle game where combat is mostly nonexistent. What sets it apart are a few things: it is absolutely gorgeous to look at, as opposed to the much more artistic beauty of the other two games. It is also much more three-dimensional than those games, which both helps and hinders its puzzles.
Little Nightmares is basically set into a series of rooms. You play as Six, a raincoat-clad child in a grotesque world, where seemingly everyone is out to kill you. Each room is a puzzle; what can you do to distract the baddies in order to buy yourself enough time to get through to the next location? It hints at the details of the world surrounding you without explicitly stating them: I came to an entirely different conclusion as to what this world was than several others after finishing the game. One thing everyone seems to agree on is that this is one unsettling game.
Watch that video. Jerky movement? Check. Oddly proportioned people? Check. Nail-biting stealth sections? Check. This is a game designed to drudge up your childhood fears and prey upon them. Ultimately, Little Nightmares wants to make your oldest and darkest fears manifest once again. There is almost no way to fight back against these creatures – being discovered almost always means instant death. You have to pick your spots wisely in order to survive, which adds a total sense of urgency to the game. The level design in Little Nightmares is absolutely perfect – with absolutely no onscreen text, it teaches you how to overcome every obstacle in the game. The puzzles are never so much that they require a guide, but you will most likely die a few times in getting to where you need to go.
While it is beautiful to look at, Little Nightmares does stumble in a few areas, lacking what it needs to really stand up as a must-buy. First, while it is very pretty, some of the animations on enemies lack polish. Sixalways looks great; I especially like the animation when she is running across narrow platforms, trying to keep her balance. But I noticed a lot of issues with the chefs, who are constantly picking things up and setting them back down – items tend to warp around to where they are programmed to be. The addition of 3-D movement, rather than just being a pure sidescroller, makes some of the depth judgment nearly impossible. When sprinting away from an enemy and trying to grab a hook to make your escape, it sucks to die because it is impossible to judge where in the foreground that hook exactly is.
One other big issue with Little Nightmares is the length. There is an achievement that tasks you with beating the game in under an hour; granted, it is difficult to pull off, but this is not a speedrun, glitching through walls and skipping entire areas. Once you know the levels, it can easily be completed in one sitting. And once you’ve beaten it and seen how things play out, there is little incentive to go back to it again unless you want all the achievements. When some games offer up hours and hours more entertainment at a similar price point, that can be a problem.
Despite the issues and shaky stability, Little Nightmares gets a lot right. It sets up a terrifying world, then tasks you with sneaking through it. It’s beautiful, unsettling, and has some impeccable level design. I can’t think of a single moment of “what do I do now?” coming up throughout my playthrough – the solution is always right there, and it generally involves skills the game taught you early in your run. If you’ve been searching for something atmospheric to creep you out, we have a winner.
- Gameplay: Smooth platforming and stealth elements. Some jumps are tricky because of poor depth judgment.
- Graphics: Beautiful art and style. The animation is generally great, although there are a few odd glitches.
- Sound: Creepy, tense music. Good panic music when trying to escape from foes.
- Presentation: Creepy but whimsical. Calls to mind Grimm’s fairy tales. A bit too short.
- Beautiful presentation
- Very unsettling
- Good stealth gameplay
- Puzzles make you think without being frustrating
- Too short; can be beaten in one sitting
- Glitchy release