Little Nightmares is a side-scrolling platformer from Tarsier Studios, who are previously known for their work on LittleBigPlanet for the PS Vita. Little Nightmare features a unique setting and a sense of dread as the player takes control of a young girl who is escaping from what appears to be a prison like vessel called Maw, while getting chased and killed by all sort of creepy creatures and hazards. Aesthetically, the game bears a lot of similarity to Playdead’s Limbo and INSIDE.
Little Nightmares is abstract in the way it presents the story. There is no written text or introduction for the main character and instead the game directly puts the player directly in the role without any explanation. The game also features no user interface to highlight things leaving it up to the player to understand the controls and progress to the next location. The lack of user interface also helps in establishing a cinematic look for the visuals.
As the main character is just a young child, the journey that it experiences resonates with the experience of being a terrified young child lost in a mysterious world. There are horrible things in this world that are a constant source of threat to the child including weird worm like creatures and disfigured and creepy looking monsters who take no time to kill the child, leaving it up to the player to save them.
The game is full of creepy and intense moments where death seems certain for the main character. Although these moments are few and far between, they carry a sense of dread that is unmatched in any other game. Even though Little Nightmare never feels like it is aiming to be an horror game, it can feel like one during these moments.
The visuals in the game are simple and the the world in general presents a post-apocalyptic look with lack of color palette that gives an uneasy feeling. The main character can push and pull objects while also hanging from them and it is all neatly integrated in the controls and not automated like most games. There is a button reserved for the purpose of letting the character cling to surfaces or pull objects. You can also run from enemies or slide your way through closing doors. You can also pick up objects to throw them at a short distance, which is utilized for some of the puzzles. Since the game is dark, you will be required to use a candle which the player can light when needed.
Speaking of puzzles, they never felt like mind blowing to me. Each of the puzzle is carefully designed around the level. This might be a good thing but if I compare the puzzles here to something like INSIDE, they are disappointing to say the least. The main thing that they lack is a sense of accomplishment since they can be easy at times, not to mention that some puzzles are tied to frustrating checkpoint system which can make repeating puzzles to solve them a chore.
It doesn’t take much time to complete the game and depending on how you play through it, it can take you somewhere between 3 to 4 hours to complete it the first time. This might seem short for the price of the game (currently at $20) but the developers have tried to add some replay value by adding some collectibles through each of the game’s various chapters. These collectibles are well hidden and unless you follow a guide, they will take a good chunk of your time to discover them all. Some of these collectibles also lead to a location that is hidden from the point of view of the player and lead to some interesting narrative exposition.
I played Little Nightmares on the Xbox One and while the visuals looked great, the performance was a mixed bag. In a game like this, the frame rate isn’t really crucial but still there were times when I noticed that it was having issues with running the game, thankfully it was not as severe as I expected. While Little Nightmares might look simple visually, It has a gorgeous Lighting tech powering it that adds a lot to the atmosphere in the game. The candle that can be lit casts dynamic shadows in the world and comes in handy during situations where it is hard to see in the darkness.
Little Nightmares Review (Xbox One)
Game Reviewed on: Xbox One
Game description: Little Nightmares is a puzzle-platformer horror adventure game developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Little Nightmares attempts to tackle the horror aspects of being a young child in a world full of unknown creatures and succeeds with it.