Disclaimer: This game was provided to me by a PR company for the purposes of a review. this will not affect my review in any way and is being explained for the purposes of transparency with our audience. The version reviewed was on PS4.
In Little Nightmares, you take control of Six in a nightmarish world in which you try to escape being eaten by twisted creatures on a large vessel called The Maw. Well, this is what the website tells me. From actually playing the game, you are given next to no story and I am no wiser on completion of the game than I was when I started it, but Little Nightmares is not about the story, it is about the journey…..and what a wonderfully unnerving journey it is.
Six is a humanoid creature who I will refer to as she; although I’m not sure a gender is ever specified. Six wears a rain mac in yellow that covers her body and face, shrouding her in mystery. She is smaller than everything else around her, with the inhabitants of The Maw towering over her. Imagine in comparison, that she was the size of a rabbit in our regular sized world. The only other creatures you meet are called Nomes, which are basically small cones with legs and no faces that scurry away from you as you make your way through the levels. The other inhabitants of The Maw are truly frightening in their appearance – from a chef with excess skin and a distorted expression to a blind butcher with over extended arms and a bandaged face; they truly look like the stuff of nightmares. The fear comes from the almost human look they have but are somehow….not….which genuinely stayed with me long after completing the game.
Little Nightmares plays as a 2.5D platformer, similar to games like Limbo but with some freedom to move back and forward as well as left and right. Each screen usually contains some kind of puzzle to allow Six to move on and various hiding places, either under or above things. The aim is simple, work through the game from beginning to end, solving puzzles to progress and avoiding being eaten by the inhabitants of the Maw. The game is split into 5 areas, The Prison, The Lair, The Kitchen, The Guest Area and The Ladies Quarters and each has an antagonist that makes their way through the level, going about their daily tasks. It is up to Six to try and get past these foes without alerting them or to get away from them if she is spotted. This leads to some very tense chases in which quick wits and fast reflexes are the only thing stopping Six from becoming dinner! The puzzles themselves range from locating keys, flipping levers and moving boxes but are satisfying and challenging at the same time. Some puzzles involve running a distraction in order to make the enemies move or create a path.
The controls work well, the right stick moves the camera and the left controls Six; a quick click of R3 will light her lighter to brighten the way and the left and right trigger buttons are to run and grab respectively. Although it takes a little getting used to, I loved the addition of having a sprint and a grab buttons; it made leaping from a precipice onto another more skillful and really made me feel like I was in control of the whole jump rather than pressing one button and having the AI do the rest.
Little Nightmares is beautifully stylised game and could easily have come from the mind of Tim Burton. The levels are dark and moody and the twisted shadows caused by Six’s lighter give a wonderfully macabre atmosphere. The textures work well, especially on the grotesque foes that are scattered throughout the Maw, helping to give them the sweaty, dank look they pull off so well. The levels look good in the range of locations visited, each with their own style that stops the Maw looking too samey. The particles are good with dust motes catching the light and broken bottles leave convincing wine stains in their wake.
The sound for Little Nightmares is a real high point in my opinion and works beautifully to keep the atmosphere tense. For a lot of the sections, silence is used to great effect, with the only sounds being Six shuffling around but when she is spotted or is required to run for her life, it is used wonderfully to get the heart racing. When there is music, the tones are haunting and really feel like they merge with the visuals perfectly, and the complete lack of speech somehow manages to give more personality to Six and the Maw’s other inhabitants, who only scream.
Little Nightmares is a wonderful journey full of intrigue and chills that really deserves to be played. The mysterious story would benefit from a little padding as I am desperate to know more about Six and her origins and the purpose of The Maw although, I am now aware that a companion comic is on the way so perhaps this will fill in some blanks. Some collectibles would have been nice to flesh the story but if mystery was the point the developers were going for, they nailed it! The length also felt a little on the short side although it may be entirely possible that I was enjoying it so much, I just didn’t want it to end. In my opinion, the bar had been set with games like Limbo and Inside but Little Nightmares manages to blow anything like it away and I truly hope I get to visit The Maw again and see what became of Six.