With Little Nightmares , Tarsier Studios invites you to assist Six escape the horrors she comes across on her journey. There will be blood, but the game is a much more cerebral experience than it is a gore fest. Six, the turnip sized main character, wakes up in a suitcase located in the bowels of an unfamiliar place. Equipped with little more than the ability to sneak around, use her lighter and her upper body strength. Using her size to her advantage Six navigates through the stages, all the while making sure she isn’t caught.
What is the story and mess-ag-ing about in Little Nightmares
Little Nightmares’ story unfolds in such a purposefully crafted fashion that the dramatic turn of events hit home quite effectively. The art direction, specifically the audio design and character design are more than noteworthy elements that make Little Nightmares shine. The creepy soundtrack and, at times claymation-like visual art direction, work together and made me feel invested in Six’s escape. The character animations of the cast might look simple at first glance but works wonders, maybe due to that simplicity. The environments are cast members in their own right. I felt encouraged to soak in and question the symbolism found throughout the stages, and noticed that these environments hold the key to uncover the deeper meaning behind the horrors on display.
The more I think about it the more I’m enamored with Little Nightmares, especially with the way tension builds up and is released at the right times. Balancing eerie vibes with dramatic events, and going from displays of affection to moments where I couldn’t help but laugh at the silliness of those who are after Six. The enemies A.I isn’t great, but this illustrates the depth of their character and underlines the dynamic between them and Six. Moreover, their dimwittedness doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the moment to moment gameplay. Even though the tiny Six can’t go head to head with her enemies, she is often the puppet master who pulls on the strings of her gigantic foes.
All the pieces to create a stellar game are here and when fit together the sum total equals more than its already great separate parts.
Although I am very positive about Little Nightmares, the game isn’t perfect. During the first act, I steered Six towards a hallway. She fell into a mucky pool, now trapped in the darkness, the main character and her light became a source of interest for nearby enemies. This section is a bit of trial and error not uncommon in games, and one could easily argue it’s in line with the story and adds to the overall message. I feel like it broke up the flow of the story much more than it had to.
The frustration evoked by the lack of direction might be enough for some to walk away from Little Nightmares, I’m glad I stuck with it. Sometimes I would also let Six fall to her death simply because I struggled with gauging the depth in the stages. Gameplay wise the platforming and puzzles aren’t that challenging. But while my puzzle solving or platforming skills were not necessarily tested I greatly appreciated how this allows for the story to progress in a natural way.
Without giving too much away, I can say that I thought I had the plot and direction of the story figured out halfway through the first level, or rather first act. Although my assumptions weren’t far off from the final reveal, I didn’t foresee the macabre plot twists Little Nightmares throw my way. Just like the stages often foreshadow what is to come, things still are rarely are what they seem.
After the credits rolled I found myself left with a thought-provoking experience similar to books or movies that blew my mind. Films haven’t been able to truly recreate that feeling for me in a long time. With Little Nightmares, Tarsier Studios created a bizarre tale that carved out its own space and can rest proudly next to cult hits like Limbo and Inside.
Little Nightmares spoilers
Fair warning, although I won’t go into detail here, I can see how the following paragraph might contain spoilers. To give you some to time steer your eyeballs away from my observations I’ll add some screenshots.
Little Nightmares explores themes also found in ‘The Specialty of the House’ by Stanley Ellis and ‘Pig’ by Roald Dahl. The comparison to Dahl’s works doesn’t end there. Like most of Roald Dahl’s stories, this game is focused on a character who finds themselves in horrific/bizarre situations. The final “boss encounter" and the implications made about the road to enlightenment are would sit well in Dahl’s oeuvre. Even if you normally shy away from games there is an interesting experience waiting for you. If you enjoy shows like Black Mirror, Inside Number 9 or Westworld you should consider adding Little Nightmares to your library.
I’VE REVIEWED THE GAME ON THE PLAYSTATION 4. THE REVIEW CODE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY THE PUBLISHER.