Image copyright Bandai Namco Entertainment 2017
As you look out of your bedroom window at night, what are you met with? Lights? A sprawling city landscape? Fields? Does it make you feel safe? Good. So, when you fall asleep after a long, hard day, wrapped up nice and cosy in your bed, that safety should help carry you away to a world of dreams and happiness. Ahhh…
I’m sorry to tell you this, but our latest game review offers no warmth or safety, for it is a living embodiment of every nightmare you ever experienced playing out in front of you. Welcome, ladies and gentlenerds, to Little Nightmares.
A “puzzle-platformer horror adventure”, Bandai Namco‘ Little Nightmares follows the unfortunate misadventures of our protagonist, a nine-year-old known simply as “Six”.
Six wakes up, hungry and alone, in a depressingly dark and mysterious vessel known as “The Maw”.
The Maw isn’t the problem though. It’s all the inhabitants that are out to get Six that are the issue.
Within the game’s admittedly short narrative, Six must outsmart and escape no fewer than four enemies who stalk her across each of Little Nightmares’ different stages.
The Blind Janitor hunts Six down throughout the Sewer, the Lair and the Jail levels; The Twin Chefs look to flombay our heroine in the Kitchen; and ultimately, Six finds herself against the malevolent mistress of the Maw in the Lady’s Quarters.
Each enemy has a different style of stalking you, and a different, grotesque physiology about them that look as though they were plucked straight from…well, your greatest nightmares.
The scenery is full of depressing imagery, from the sight of small children locked in cages, to wallpaper that seemingly closes in on you, to a poor individual for whom the Maw was not a place they could stand for much longer.
Little Nightmares is not a game that particularly rewards you for solving its puzzles – other than allowing you to get that little bit further towards the goal – and it’s over pretty quickly, with no real warrant for a second playthrough.
However, when it comes to it, there aren’t that many games that can offer a truly horrific setting and atmosphere like Little Monsters can.
You always feel isolated and vulnerable, even when you’re not in the same room as one of the monstrous inhabitants of the Maw. The dark, foreboding landscape does nothing to make you feel like you’re in a safe spot, and there’s almost an unnerving sensation that, at any moment, a pair of arms is going to come through the floorboards to get you.
To make things even worse, your only tool is a lighter which you use as a flashlight, and your only “friends” are the faceless Nomes that also inhabit the Maw, but to be honest, at times, they seem more afraid of you than you are of them.
Do they know something that we don’t know?
Although it doesn’t happen too often, Little Nightmares does present you with a problem in your survival – you know, other than being surrounded by 50′ tall monsters who want to rip your head off and suck out your insides. Six is cursed with an insatiable appetite that plagues her as you progress through the game.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, the hunger takes over Six, almost turning her feral and primal, and the only way to continue is to eat…something.
However, as you could probably imagine, the Maw isn’t exactly filled with lovely little cafés where Six could order a sandwich.
And maybe it’s a consequence of being in the Maw that leads Six to do what she does, but when all is said and done, there are more monsters lurking in the Maw than you think.
Nerd Rating, 6/10 – a great and gripping game that’ll have you hooked (or, if you’re not careful, on hooks) before you know it. Six is a vulnerable heroine, trapped in a living nightmare, and her only hope of survival is to run! Yes, I know that the best horror narratives are the ones where you don’t see the monster and it’s left to your imagination to fill in the blanks, but funnily enough, that trope doesn’t always work out as well in video games. You need a monster to slay, or to avoid, and a villain to defeat. And it’s harder to do that when you don’t encounter the monster. My Nerd Rating would be higher if the game were longer, but it’s a decent enough length to be worth a play through. The plus side to it’s short length, however, is the three additional DLC packages that offer you an “alternative perspective to the Maw…and to Six” that are available (the third and final pack is coming February 2018).
If you like this, try; Outlast, Limbo, Inside, and Contrast
Little Nightmares, available on Xbox One, Playstation 4, Steam.
Official site; http://www.little-nightmares.com/en/