Little Nightmares is quite the departure for a studio known for their work on LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. Gone are the bright colors and upbeat music and in comes the dark and grotesque atmosphere of Little Nightmares.
Much like Playdead’s Inside, Little Nightmares drops you in a world with no narrative exposition. As far as you know, you’re only goal is to escape this nightmarish world, and nightmarish it is. The atmosphere Little Nightmares sets is dark and foreboding, with a constant wonderment if something is just around the next corner. However, Little Nightmares isn’t exactly what I’d call a horror game. It has its moments, but its tone is more in line with that of Inside, where fear is replaced by intrigue.
The presentation of Little Nightmares is easily the game’s biggest selling point and also relays most of the game’s narrative to you through environmental storytelling. While moving through The Maw (the location the game is set in), you’ll find plenty of environmental cues to provide some context to this strange world. As with all of my reviews, I’ll stray away from explaining too much about what you’ll find in the game because it’s important that you piece these things together yourself without prior explanation.
There’s a ton of detail packed into these little environments and the game’s sense of scale makes everything all the more frightening. One scene in particular has you climbing up the side of The Maw and as the camera continues to pan back far enough that you’re almost just a dot on the screen, and then quickly comes back to the main character’s point of view.
Adding to the presentation is the game’s sublime sound design. There’s not a whole lot of music in Little Nightmares, but what’s there sets the tone perfectly in each of the different areas and adds to the foreboding mood set by the game. The beings themselves are creepy, if not a little comical both visually and through sound design. The sound cues that come from when they spot you gave me some laughs, but totally fit the bill of “little” nightmares.
As far as the gameplay of Little Nightmares goes, it’s a pretty standard side-scrolling adventure. The biggest difference you’ll find in Little Nightmares compared to similarly developed games is that there’s a rather prominent stealth segment where you’ll need to either use the environment or stay out of sight of the grotesque beings that inhabit the Maw. Outside of stealth, you’ll solve environmental puzzles, find keys to unlock doors, and at one point you’ll even get to makes sausages.
My biggest complaint about Little Nightmares stems from the fact that the game is over a bit too quickly for my liking. The ending of the game will no doubt raise more questions for you than answers, as is the nature of wordless narratives, but it wasn’t exactly the payoff I was expecting. The game offers a total of five different areas, and the fifth sort of feels like an afterthought compared to the previous locations.
If you’ve played Inside, you’ll notice some similarities at the end of your adventure. Obviously, the ending is what Tarsier intended so this is a bit more of a personal gripe based on the fact that I was so intrigued by the world of Little Nightmares I wanted to see more of it. Regardless, for the $20 Little Nightmares is an experience worth having, if not simply to indulge in the weird world Tarsier has crafted up.
PUBLISHER – Bandai Namco | DEVELOPER – Tarsier Studios | ESRB – T | PLATFORMS – PC, PS4, Xbox One
RECOMMENDED – Little Nightmares offers up masterclass environmental design and storytelling. The Maw is such an intriguing backdrop that it’s worth the asking price, even though the gameplay itself is nothing out of the ordinary for a side-scrolling adventure.
Reviewed on Xbox One. A personal copy was purchased by the Gameumentary staff.