In a world where the most sinister and darkest nightmares lie, a small child must face these evils helplessly. Little Nightmares takes you through the eyes of Six, a small child who must escape from the bottom of the Maw and grow up in the face of its horrors. Little Nightmares is a short, but extremely immersive game. Allowing players to experience and feel along with its protagonist.
Little Nightmares Review
Title: Little Nightmares
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC [Reviewed]
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: April 27, 2017
A Helpless but Resourceful Child
Six is anything but your average child. Despite her small stature and feebleness, Six is skilled at jumping, running and hiding. Put at the very bottom of the Maw, she is a prisoner like all the other children. The children are part of the menu in the Maw, feeding gluttonous rich men and women. The Maw is an island ship that houses the prison and a cannibal island resort. All run by one woman, The Lady.
Six uses a lighter as her source of light. Quite literally, she is the light in the darkness. Six can run, or tiptoe across the levels. Running is a huge factor in how you play the game. This becomes apparent when she faces off with enemies like The Janitor. The use of sound and its effects on the environment are also important to master. For example, running on the wood floor can lure the Janitor to her. However, on a padded surface, it can create a distraction to pass by him.
Despite her malnourishment, Six has a surprising amount of strength. Although, she still needs the player to help in creating distractions for her. You might have to throw toy blocks or even start-up a cymbal monkey. However, the game leaves it up to the player in figuring out these puzzles. Presenting a nice challenge overall. Thankfully, Little Nightmares gives off subtle hints in how to deceive enemies and solve said puzzles, without the need for written instructions.
Six’s small stature also gives her the ability to hide and blend within the environment. When Six meets the Chef brothers (pictured above), her goal is to sneak like a mouse around the kitchen, in order to get by them. Since the kitchen is not like the prison, where it’s more open, you have to hide in crates and under a table. This is another big positive of Little Nightmares. Players are granted the freedom to maneuver around enemies in their own style. While still following the set path provided by the game.
The Lighter, the Statue, and the Gnomes
Aside from being her source of light, Six’s lighter is also a safety net. The lighter isn’t really powerful enough to cause fires, or to burn enemies. However, when things get too scary, just turn on the lighter to make the bad dreams go away. Interestingly, the lighter is also useful for creating checkpoints and small saves. Each level has small lamps, which Six can light up. These lamps are the night lights for Six. It’s where she, and the player, can take a breather and regroup before heading out.
The statues are another little in-game easter egg. By smashing the statues, they release a black cloud. Although they don’t serve a purpose like the lamps, it’s still satisfying for players to smash them. Getting some statues can be difficult, and some are even kept by enemies.
Probably the cutest thing about the game are the Gnomes. Made even more adorable, because Six can hug them. Hugging the gomes works like the statues, except when hugging them, they can follow you around the level for a bit. These gnomes are even harder to find than the statues as well. Yet, they present another reason for you to playthrough the game again, to find them all.
A Dark, but Symbolic Style
My favorite thing about Little Nightmares is the use of colors and symbolism. A perfect example is the yellow raincoat Six wears. It’s bright and looks out of place, making even the most blind enemies notice it. The pre-order DLC that comes with the game changes Six’s head and face, but not her outfit. This is because the raincoat is part of the symbolism of Little Nightmares. The game has no written context for anything, just pure imagery. Six’s raincoat symbolizes how out of place she is in the Maw. She’s ultimately just a regular child. One that doesn’t belong in the upper world with the rich clients, nor with the other child prisoners.
Previously in the review, I mentioned Little Six being malnourished. Players will see signs of this in certain scripted events, where Six suffers evident hunger pains. These pains show her character development. Serving as a symbol of a child growing up in a cruel adult world. However, this doesn’t end there. Six is living a nightmare and the player feels that while taking Six through the environments. It’s the symbolism of a child that is out of place in the world. A child that is scared and alone. One that has little chance of surviving except on hope and pure strength of will. Ultimately, it’s just amazing how the developers are able to convey that through simple things like gestures, light, and a coat.
Subtle and dark, yet challenging
Creepy atmosphere based on child-like fears
Storytelling that allows players to analyze and think
Gameplay which fully enraptures the feebleness and helplessness of its protagonist
Very short and leaves you wanting more
Overall Thoughts: 9 Out of 10 Little Nightmares is one the best horror games out there. Not because it has jumpscares or a creepy atmosphere. But because the atmosphere captures the essence of a child’s fear. The fear of being alone and helpless, in a world meant for adults. Little Nightmares is a game that needs to be experienced. While short, (running about two to three hours,) there’s so much in this game. From the beautiful imagery and its unique characters, to its various settings and engaging protagonist. Horror game fans and speedrunners probably already picked up this game. However, I feel that this is a game that can appeal to anyone. Truly, one of the year’s best.
For the sake of transparency, the publisher (Bandai Namco) provided a digital code for review purposes