Little Nightmares is a short but wonderful side scrolling 2.5D hide and seek puzzle platformer type of game set in a grotesque and creepy world. Inspired by games like Inside and Limbo but with its own personality, it will leave a mark in you even long after you are done with it.
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Engine: Unreal Engine
Genre: Platform game
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (tested)
Little Nightmares is the tale of Six, a little and faceless child we are in control of, and The Maw. Trapped in an oversize world with nothing else than a lighter to shed some light in very dark and wet places, we will need to escape from horrors we can barely understand. Only one thing is certain: If any of those deformed and horrible monsters caught us, we are gone.
Little is known about the universe we are in. Just like in Limbo and Inside, you are dropped into what seems to be a disturbing dollhouse full of bad people we are supposed to run from, but with little to non-backstory. The camera is centered in on Six as we explore different rooms and run thru corridors into the complete unknown. In our journey, we will find little creatures known as The Nomes, a cute mechanic for Little Nightmares to make us go out of our way to hug little creates and provide them some sort of comfort in a world full of dangers. Other than that, the game is as linear as you can get: run from point A to point B, while hiding from the bad guys and sucking bits of subtle information than more often than not, will leave us with a sense of uneasiness.
The Maw arrives every year. Always at the same time, but never in the same place, it creeps and crawls and buries its claws deep beneath the glistening water. And there it sits in vast silence. Waiting.
Soon after, they start to arrive. The guests. The monstrous, sweating, hungry guests. All seams bursting, bodies bulging, eyes dead with boredom. They shuffle up the gangway and into the mouth of The Maw. And then they are no more.
For none of those that enter have ever returned to tell the tale. At least, not yet…
The bad guys are, in this case, carefully presented in the 5 chapters we will play in this very, very short game. Each chapter will present some sort of mechanic that we will need to master to carefully avoid and outsmart the chapter’s boss. Sometimes we will need to carefully tread around, sometimes we will need to quickly evade, and sometimes we will need to desperately sprint thru the unknown.
As a very short game, it would be a disservice to spoil any of the encounters, but trust me on this: this little gem is worth every single penny for the fully tense charged 3 hours you will get. The replay value is minimum, but the “OH FUCK!” moments you will get when introduced to a boss are priceless. You can’t muscle your way through the game since you lack any fighting ability and you can’t stealth your way through either because sometimes you will not have anywhere to hide. The stealth-heavy moments are minimum, but really interesting. I found myself carefully listening to steps, trying not to breath to not get caught, only to get smelled by a monster and start running to even worse places. Little Nightmares is able to create incredible tense sequences, where everything turns into chaos when something you wanted to do doesn’t really result into what you expected.
Unfortunately, Little Nightmares is a really well-designed game with gorgeous animations and an even better presentation that suffers from the most basic flaws. Its ‘2.5D’ set-up makes certain moments of precision platforming simply irritating and boring. There are moments where you jump slightly at the wrong angle and tumble unnecessarily into an abyss, only to suffer from long loading times. I can understand the long loading times: they allow you to play thru an entire chapter seamlessly, but some instant-death obstacles, inconsistent checkpoints and trial-and-error puzzles simply don’t belong to an otherwise well thought and short but perfect game.
Developer Tarsier created an impressive first original title that is able to immerse you in a state of uneasiness without a single jump scare. Inspired by Limbo and Inside, Little Nightmares is one of those little gems worth every single penny for the amazing but short time you get from it. Smart, grotesque and weird while interesting. A must play for fans of the genre.