If you have followed our previous posts from EGX and EGX Rezzed, you’ll be aware of Little Nightmares and the impression it left on me after I played the demo…. twice. To be fair, the booth at EGX was pretty awesome with a Six running around being chased by chefs among the crowds instantly drawing your attention to the game and the booth was covered in the pictures and wallpaper featured in the game. I’ve been looking forward to the games release ever since and am pleased it is finally here!
Little Nightmares is the product of Tarsier Studios, of Little Big Planet and Tearaway Unfolded fame, and Bandai Namco publishing. Initially they announced they were working on an IP with Sony for the PS4 called Hunger, but this later changed and confirmed that Little Nightmares would be available on XBOX One, PS4 and PC. In a way, I’m glad this happened as it means a wider audience can enjoy the game! So, after the wait and my anticipation for the release, has it lived up to my expectations?
You know when I order the special edition of something that I’m pretty invested in supporting a game. I ordered the Six Edition, which came with the games soundtrack, a comic strip, the game and a little figure of Six in her yellow anorak, holding her trusty lighter. It is presented in a box resembling the crates you will see in the game and immediately confirms to you that this is a game about escaping. You play as Six, a small girl in a dark, eerie and frankly horrifying place in this 3D side-scrolling platformer. Your location is unknown at the start of the game but you get the sense that you are in a boat of sorts due to the rocking motion that occasionally becomes apparent while you move through the areas of the game. You have no weaponry and although you can take a tumble, you will die if you fall too far. As Six, you will have to run, climb, sneak and hide to get through the Maw. I really didn’t want anything bad to happen to Six. Any time I missed a jump or accidentally killed her in some way, it just felt awful, so my advice would be to try and avoid that if you can!
In order to escape, Six will have to be cunning and quick. There are not only obstacles to overcome in the form of mini puzzles which require a little bit of exploration, but there are monsters. I say monsters…. They’re grotesque and creepy beings that you will have to avoid and outrun to prevent getting caught and returned to a checkpoint. They come in the form of the Janitor, a blind creature with long arms that can reach to high places to grab you; the Chefs, who reside in the Kitchen area and are altogether unpleasant; the Guests, fat and hungry folks that you’ll come across later in the game and finally; The Lady… who I won’t say much about as I don’t want to spoil things! When you first encounter these monsters, you’ll probably shudder and then want to work out how to sneak by without getting noticed. These characters just add to the overall eerie feel of the game and you’ll just have to hope they don’t catch you!
Going back to the setting, there are 5 areas to this game. The initial area is where you will learn the basic controls but there isn’t a tutorial of sorts. If you stand still long enough, a prompt will come up at the bottom of the screen to assist you, but as I was familiar with the controls from my previous encounters with the game, I was able to get by before the prompts appeared for the most part. It’s dark, dingy, there are leeches that fall from the ceiling which will gobble you up if you can’t avoid them and vents to crawl through. You start to get the feeling that this isn’t a very nice place and that you would be better off out of it as quickly as possible. You start in the Prison (you’ll get why it’s called that), then move through the Lair, Kitchen, Guest Area and the Lady’s Quarters. Each offer an oversized and grimly absurd style for our little Six to navigate and are reminiscent of something you may have seen in a Tim Burton film. Doors require Six to use her full body weight to open, dragging items into place requires effort and in a similar way to Among the Sleep, you just feel a little helpless but will persevere all the same. The levels are well designed in the challenges they offer although I did occasionally fall due to the perspective which did become a little irritating at times. It’s my only slight issue with the game overall as it did lead to a few unnecessary deaths.
The controls and gameplay convey a simply grotesque game of hide and seek with lamps to light, Nomes to hug and statues to smash (if you can find them). You can run, crouch, carry certain items, drag, jump, climb, throw items and swing. All the things a small girl needs to survive. Occasionally I would find the jump and grab buttons wouldn’t complement each other and this would result in an unexpected fall but other than that, the controls will get you through. Knowing when to sneak and when to run is key as you’ll suddenly realise the chase is on and there’s nowhere to hide. There is no dialogue in the game but the grisly surroundings allow you to ponder on the bases in terms of building a narrative of sorts. The shoes, the suitcases, the cells, the overseeing eyes (or arms)… it is disturbing and perhaps reminiscent of images from the Holocaust while commenting on the overall greed of society which will have an impact on the younger generations. I may be completely wrong and it’s just a sick, twisted horror story where we are left to wonder whether the light of Six really can defeat the darkness that she has been exposed to.
Overall, I really enjoyed Little Nightmares. It is a short game in the sense that if you spend time searching for collectibles for those all-important trophies and achievements, you could take 4-5 hours to complete it in one sitting. I’ve noticed that there is an achievement for completing the game in less than an hour with no deaths… so I better get practising! The length, for me, isn’t an issue as your first playthrough may take a little while longer as you figure out the best way to avoid the monsters who are after you but it does offer the replay challenge to get that Gold trophy/achievement (no Platinum trophy though sadly). This is a very different offering from Tarsier Studios who usually present us with happy and bright titles that, while challenging, offer a more light-hearted approach to gaming. Little Nightmares is the opposite! Yes, it is enjoyable but it is dark, eerie and creepy. I am still undecided as to whether it should be considered a horror game, it does not provide jump scares or cheap tricks to freak the player out but it does provide unease and tension that are needed to keep you on edge. If you want to try your hand at escaping the Maw, Little Nightmares is available now on PC, XBOX One and PS4.