Little Nightmares: Complete Edition Review
Little Nightmares is visual storytelling at its finest. Without spilling a single word throughout its relatively short run time, Little Nightmares leaves a lasting and haunting impression. Having plowed through the game several times now since its original launch last year, I’m still finding new things that I never noticed before that enhance my enjoyment of it. The world of Little Nightmares is so visually different from other horror games, it’s hard not to get caught up in it. It’s macabre and grotesque and yet so inviting and atmospheric. Now that it’s on Switch in the form of Little Nightmares: Complete Edition, owners of Nintendo’s hybrid machine are in for a real spooky treat.
What’s great about the Complete Edition is that it comes loaded with all the additional story DLC that the other platforms had to wait so long for. From the main menu, you can choose to dive right in to the main story campaign — which features the mysterious yellow raincoat-wearing protagonist named Six — or the three-part Secrets of the Maw DLC where you play as the Runaway Kid. While you could start Little Nightmares in any way you see fit, I’d recommend booting up the DLC only after you’ve seen Six’s story through to the end. The Kid’s adventure actually runs concurrent to Six’s and sheds some light on key story elements and even has a few fun crossovers with the main story. If there’s a criticism to be had about Little Nightmares, its that it’s quite short. Secrets of the Maw is approximately the same length but it does add more value to the overall package.
Strange and Unsettling
Without going too far into spoiler territory, Little Nightmares is set inside The Maw, a wonderfully strange and unsettling vessel home to a memorable cast of freaks and horrors that will, in one way or another, scare you silly in unexpected ways. Like any good horror yarn, Little Nightmares took its time setting the stage, as it gradually moved me along into a false sense of security before it pulled the rug right underneath me — or rather Six’s tiny pitter-patter feet.
A large part of what makes Little Nightmares so mesmerizing is its animation. Whether you’re watching Six clutch her stomach as she struggles to find something to eat, or seeing the creepy Caretaker’s long, dangly arms stretch out from the darkness, developer Tarsier Studios has managed to make these seemingly fairytale-like creations move in realistic and unnerving fashion. It’s all elevated in the game’s final chapter where everything comes to a head in an absolutely stunning and intense sequence that is equal parts beautiful and disgusting, to say the least.
Much of what you’re doing in Little Nightmares isn’t that much different from other puzzle-platformers like Limbo and Inside. There’s plenty of running, jumping, and climbing going on but it really makes its mark whenever you come face to face with one of The Maw’s ghoulish residents. Grotesque monsters like the aforementioned Caretaker and the kitchen Chef are heart-pounding affairs that involve tiptoeing around them or running and sliding out of their reach. Getting caught results in instant death but thankfully the checkpoint system is pretty generous. Less so are the load times on Switch, which can feel a bit long particularly when you find yourself dying frequently over and over again. I wouldn’t call Little Nightmares a difficult game, but there are a handful of times that rely a bit much on trial and error.
I also absolutely adore the art style in Little Nightmares because it often looks and feels like it shouldn’t be a horror game. It’s dark and eerie, yes, but it also has a cutesy charm to it. The mashup of cartoony visuals, unsettling imagery, and chilling sound design shouldn’t typically work, but they do so so effortlessly. Playing with a nice set of surround sound headphones is highly recommended for the best and optimal experience. The immersive sound design —every footstep, creak, and shriek — enhances the already rich and heavy atmosphere that exudes from every corner of Little Nightmares.
Every Nook and Cranny
You’re going to want to search every corner too if you like finding collectables in your games. Scattered about the world are various lanterns to light, dolls, and bottles to break, and little Nomes (yes, that’s the correct spelling) to hug. The nomes are cute little creatures that love to hide in small and obscure places. They’ll try to run and hide from you when you come near but a simple hug earns their trust and calms their nerves. Unfortunately, finding all the collectables don’t unlock or reveal anything, and since Achievements/Trophies don’t exist on Switch, going out of your way to find them feels somewhat meaningless. Despite this, they’re still a nice added bonus for the completionists out there, like me.
My original concern with the Switch version going in was that the experience would be diminished in portable mode. In the end, surprisingly, I found myself playing the majority of the game and DLC in handheld mode. Even on the small screen, Little Nightmares looks great, although it does come off slightly soft and fuzzier in portable mode than it does playing on the big screen. It isn’t as bad as say, RiME was in portable mode, and I’m happy to report that it also runs very well on the hybrid console, staying mostly on track to its 30 fps target.
Little Nightmares is a perfect example of doing lots with so little. It succeeds as an excellently taut piece of visual storytelling while also delivering a compelling gameplay experience. It happens to be one of the more unique horror games out there thanks to a detailed art style, fantastic animation, and top-notch sound design. Little Nightmares can be a bit on the short side, but the added story DLC, which is approximately the same runtime, help add more value for your buck. If you’re looking to play something a little different on your Nintendo Switch, make sure you don’t sleep on Little Nightmares.
*** Switch code provided by the publisher ***
- Superb graphics and animation
- Scary in all the right places
- Secrets of the Maw DLC adds more value
- Excellent story that begs for a sequel
- Dripping in atmosphere
- A bit on the short side
- Collectibles feel meaningless