Little Nightmares emits a charm. One that is hard to put a finger on especially when the tone is almost dark yet whimsical. Playing hide and seek is in almost every Horror game these days and Little Nightmares does not shy away from that and yet it utilizes a fair amount that it doesn’t feel overburdened. The atmosphere is as eerie as it can get but at the same time builds a story that is asking to be looked with keen observation.
The story is one that is not told in direct dialogues but rather through subtle and vague hints from the world that encompasses it. Little Nightmares introduces a little girl, clad in a yellow raincoat called Six. She wakes up and finds herself in a ship called the Maw that is filled with monstrous, hungry and disfigured passengers that more than towers her. It is up to her to find out what is going on in the ship and to find answers why is she on that ship in the first place. One thing clear that is shown in the beginning, escaping the ship is top priority.
Tarsier Studios whom created the game, clearly took much inspirations from their Danish neighbors at Playdead’s chilling masterpieces Inside and Limbo. That said, Little Nightmares isn’t a carbon copy of aforementioned games. It takes on the concept and polished it with alluring presentation that goes between having cartoonish qualities and exuding dark moods that envelopes its world that is both distinctive and unique.
Maneuvering Six in every room is a puzzle itself. Each new room is always different from the last. I could never get myself to know what I should be doing next as the game does not give any subtle hints on what needs to be done. With that said, everything is done an intentional purpose. It brings out the feeling of lost and confusion that permeates each room that supplements the core of story as well as strengthens the level design. I would say it is a smart and clever move from Tarsier Studios. Forcing me to experiment things around to solve a puzzle is definitely a very satisfying feel.
On the subject of design, it is considered one of Little Nightmare’s core strengths. The unease and grotesque look stands out that almost gave a faint hint of a clay-based stop-motion animation. It is truly a sense of wonder to walk through towering book-shelves and file cabinets or being chased down by hungry eating customers in a restaurant. The colors though not visually popping, brings out a sense of dread and fear. The game doesn’t rely on monochromatic tones but rather a simple color combination for each room that is simple yet effective.
Sounds in this game is excellent and playing it with headphones definitely brings more volume to it. From the clanging sounds from the dishes being washed by the giant cooks to the haunting sound that spooks in those dark corridors gives a strong sense of chill. The sounds of footsteps from Six and the nasty creak on wooden floors is just perfect. Nonetheless, the best atmospheric sound is definitely when certain areas just go plain silent giving hints that something is about happen. Every sound is cleverly used and at the same time they are not overly done nor used that it will feel stale after a while.
As much praise is said, it is still a shame that Little Nightmare’s primary problems are rather obvious. Firstly, the game set-up is on a 2.5D which in turn makes certain movements such as jumping on to certain platform tricky. Even if the game allows to use the left analog stick to move the camera but the given angle movement is very limited and at times does not help especially in tight situations when being chased down those monstrous denizens of the ship. It is simply irritating when making a jump which I know I could make it but end up falling to my demise. Furthermore, some of the puzzles really forces a trial-and-error approach which inherently doesn’t make me feel smart as I can keep on trying until I find the most obvious way to solve it. Apart from that, the game also suffers some long loading especially when loading up from a checkpoint though it is probably given considering everything is running seamlessly on each chapter even when moving to the next room.
Little Nightmares is a fairly short game. Although this is subjective to each person but I personally find the length of the game is on an adequate amount. It is not too long that it will start to feel repetitive and it is neither too short that is doesn’t feel unfulfilling. Although the game sports a rather not so great Auto-save feature where at times I find myself starting back further back then I remember. Although given that the game has only about 5 chapters, I was able to forgive this part as it gave me a chance to admire the level design once again
- Strong and smart atmospheric visuals
- Amazing sound that boost the atmosphere
- Interesting puzzles to solve
- Bite sized content that doesn’t feel stale
- Short. Can be completed within a few short hours
- Annoying auto-save feature
- Slow loading especially on checkpoints
- Irritating camera angles