Little Nightmares is A Creepy Trip in a Disturbed Child's Imagination
If we could see inside the minds of the kids in Tim Burton film...
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4. Xbox One
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Little Nightmares is an unnerving game. That detail is pretty apparent right from the beginning. What’s also apparent is the comparison to games like Limbo and Inside. Little Nightmares is a “child must traverse horrifying and dangerous predicaments” simulator like the mentioned titles. It’s got a very creepy Tim Burton feel to it, especially the look of the game. In Little Nightmares, you play as a small girl named Six. A very small girl. Like, she’s maybe a foot tall. At least, she compared to the giant rooms she encounters.
Tarsier Studios previously worked on the LittleBigPlanet series, so a lot of the puzzle-platformer concepts transfer over, and pretty well at that. The game is a side-scroller, but it’s also technically in 3D space, it just mostly plays from left to right. The game is mostly stealth based in between puzzles. Being a tiny child, Six must avoid large, scary monsters aboard this giant vessel called The Maw.
The visuals are actually really creepy.
The Maw is a large ship of some sort with leaks and cracks all over the place. It’s definitely got an abandoned, creepy vibe to it. There are five sections to The Maw, and each one houses its own truly disturbing monster. Sure, the monsters are scary and instantly snatch you when they catch you, but it’s not so much the sudden jump scare that's eery about this game, it’s just simply… creepy. That fact that it doesn’t make sense and that you’re playing as a small child makes it seem like it’s a child’s overactive and disturbed imagination.
Many times, the monsters are in plain sight and you must find your way around them without being spotted. The game doesn’t reveal much about them aside from what context you can glean, and that’s really what’s scary about them: You don’t know who or what they are. They’re just weird and that’s unsettling.
The best part of Little Nightmares is the creativity.
It’s got a lot of strange and new things in its world. The gameplay isn’t bad at all, but what kept me playing was the weird world. I wanted to see what was in the next room, and what these freaky, long-armed things were and why they were catching tiny people like me and wrapping them up like hams.
The sound effects are also really well done. Again like Inside and Limbo, there’s little to no music in the game, and almost exclusively ambient sounds that echo off of the cold metal walls and ceilings of The Maw. This really incites a feeling of being alone in the dark. As mentioned before, the game isn’t directly scary, but it is disturbing and tense.
The gameplay could have had a bit more to it, but I didn’t find myself urged to turn it off either, so the world was enough to continue the journey. Enemy search patterns were pretty easy to memorize, and it felt like there was more that could be done in the ways of avoiding enemies. There were many times where Six simply had to run away from these black leech things that instantly killed you if you touched them as they fell from the ceiling. Carefully navigating around them didn’t work because as they settled on the ground, they just started chasing you, so the best method was to just book it.
Overall, Little Nightmares was an entertaining experience.
The game is roughly 5 hours long if you don’t get heinously stuck on a puzzle (which happened once for me).It doesn’t have much in the way of replayability, but that’s not really a bad thing for a $20 purchase. Plus, I would be a little concerned if I got comfortable looking at the monsters in this game.
It’s not long, so those looking for a time sink may want to look elsewhere. But if initial screenshots piqued your interest, Little Nightmares is all about presentation and definitely doesn’t disappoint in that department. It’s imaginative and creepy, a mix that Tim Burton fans would love.