Little Nightmares Review
As the screen faded to black and the credits rolled on my time with Little Nightmares, I felt as if I was suddenly awoken from a trance. My palms were sweaty, my mind was racing, and I could do little more than sit there and contemplate what I’d just undertaken. It would be cheesy to say I felt as if I’d woken up from a nightmare, but it also wouldn’t be accurate – this game was a blast to play, a visually stunning and emotionally captivating experience that has so much to say that I couldn’t quite grasp it all in one playthrough. Make no mistake, Little Nightmares is a special game.
In the most basic terms, the game will seem very similar to two other popular titles, Limbo and Inside, wherein you control a small child – in this case a small girl wearing a yellow raincoat – who must escape a dark, eerie and dangerous world. Armed with nothing more than a lighter and her wits, she must sneak past and flee from disfigured, monstrous humanoids lurking throughout the hellish and mysterious place in which she’s trapped, alone and seemingly powerless.
“Little Nightmares takes the budding “hide-and-seek-horror” genre to another level by implementing a visual style that is both grotesque and inescapable.”
Unlike those other titles, which took very minimalistic artistic design and interpretative storytelling, Little Nightmares takes the budding “hide-and-seek-horror” genre to another level by implementing a visual style that is both grotesque and inescapable. It has a sound design that is hair-raising and precise, forcing you to grow increasingly uncomfortable and disturbed as you push your child avatar further and further along.
Developer Tarsier Studious made took great measures to make this place seem to exist in a dream logic. Each new room and every new level is inhabited by misshapen facsimiles of what a human world, and human beings, should look like. The world is constantly swaying back and forth, keeping you constantly off balance, and everything from bookshelves to dressers to kitchen appliances are all somehow twisted, contorted, off kilter.
But it isn’t just a matter of creating an intensely creepy atmosphere – though in that vein, the game is a huge success. Rather, Tarsier Studios is clearly playing with a variety of ideas all around the theme of innocence, or rather, the loss of it. Things that children often think of as joyful and fun – books, music boxes, dolls – are all collected, stacked, and discarded. The adult figures are all out to get you, whether by using their hands to sense your movements along floorboards, or chasing you around a kitchen to use you as a garnish in their meals. While you are thin and very often hungry to the point of starvation, these adults are fat, gelatinous, so over-stuffed that their very skin seems to be molting off them. And even in moments of respite, when you think you’ve escaped a dangerous encounter unscathed, the scars of that experience stay with your rain-coat-wearing avatar in ways that made both my jaw and my heart drop.
It’s incredible to me that a game with such maudlin themes and tense, haunting atmosphere could come from a team like Tarsier Studios, whose previous titles, Little Big Planet 3 and Tearaway, were so full of light and cartoonish whimsy. They’ve complete flipped the script on their previous oeuvre, crafting a work that left an indelible mark on me as a gamer and as a human being.
***A PC code was provided by the publisher***
- Impeccable sound design
- Haunting visual style
- Encourages exploration
- Puzzles are simplistic
- 5 hour run time