Developer: Tarsier Studios
Release Date: 28th April 2017
Platform Reviewed: PC with Controller (Also available on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch)
Little Nightmares is not overly scary, its just mentally and emotionally creepy…
As for what this game is about, players are given very little to go on, even now Tarsier Studios aren’t giving anything away (I think they just like reading the fan theories), what we do know is that you control a young girl in a yellow jacket named Six, her face almost completely masked through clever camera manipulation, and with quite cute and endearing character animations. The aim of the game is fairly simple, escape ‘The Maw’ (giant boat). The structure of Little Nightmares is fairly linear in map design, and there are few puzzles to actually solve in this game, most of which involve sneaking a key past giant Tim Burton-esque characters, or a timed run involving some sort of crank. The game is fairly challenging on the first playthrough, but once you know what you’re doing in can become a little too easy.
Despite this, Little nightmares is a beautifully crafted game that the designers have clearly cared for, be it the collectibles, the secret rooms, or the little pictures of Six around The Maw.
The art style is captivating in what lulls you in with its childlike whim and then scars you with its grotesque foes that seem to be melting or poorly stitched together by some greater being.
As the game progresses and you discover more of The Maw, the style of where you thought you were begins to evolve, beginning in the bottom of The Maw among the rats and slugs, working your way into the store rooms and kitchens, until finally you emerge into what feels like Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away inspired restaurant, with the gluttonous Tim Burton creatures, stuffing their faces with anything in sight, including you.
This game is dark…really dark. The imaginative variations of Six’s death is quite astounding, as there is no single way that a particular foe will use once you are captured, you can be thrown in an oven, placed on a chopping board, straight up eaten, dragged under water/shoes (makes more sense if you play the game).
One thing I love about this game, is it really gives you a sense of just how small you are in the world, yet it doesn’t stop you from being awesome, which they give you an idea at through the game, but a few times throughout it becomes a lot clearer that you really are ‘little’.
Although I really love this game, I will say that its not perfect; sometimes the perspective of the platformer element can trick your depth perception, mostly its fine but you will get caught a few times on some of the timed puzzles due to this element of the game. I have also found that it is not bug free. I spent 11/2 hours on my second run through and encountered a few bugs, nothing game breaking, more irritating than anything, which if you encounter these on your first run through can cause some frustration.
Overall, this is a fantastic little game that is beautiful yet terrifying to look at and play, the way the story is portrayed leaves a lot to imagination which is quite refreshing these days with interactive stories storming through the industry. Sometimes its nice not to be guided through the game a like an infant on a day trip, sometimes its nice to feel like a dog in a open field and have some freedom. The art style and eerie music keep you captivated with every little detail throughout, begging you to explore The Maw for clues of a semblance of a deeper meaning to who Six is. Unfortunately, due to the linear level design, and lack of depth in the problem solving and puzzles in the game, the replay value of Little Nightmares isn’t very high, but if you fall in love with it like I did, it can still be enjoyable.