Little Nightmares Review: A Dream Cruise on Dark Waters

May 3rd, 2017 -

At first glance, Little Nightmares appears to be nothing more than a cutesy horror game aimed at the Nightmare Before Christmas crowd. Part Tim Burton, part City of Lost Children, with some Silent Hill and Limbo mixed in for good measure, Little Nightmares puts its influences center stage and it works. Tarsier Studios managed to combine them into an impressive, yet small package that left me yearning for more.

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You begin the game as Six, a small, humanlike creature equipped with nothing but a bright yellow rain coat in a world that while not outright terrifying, you can tell from the minute you start, something is off. The entirety of the game is spent on a hulking ship only known as the Maw. What is it? Where is it going? Where did it come from? Why does almost everyone on the ship want to murder you? These questions are never answered, but I don’t really care and neither should you. Much like Limbo, you are left alone with your wits, with very little direction for most of the game. While this may make it seem inaccessible, I only ran into issues when in an extremely dark area; I kept falling victim to cheap deaths caused by the game not telling me I had a lighter to make the pitch black area less deadly.

The Maw is hands down the most detailed landscape I’ve seen in this gaming generation. The water and lighting effects are not only amazing, they are almost photorealistic. My one complaint about the visuals is that many of the areas are too dark. I not only had to turn the brightness all the way up, I had to adjust my TV’s brightness. This did lead to a few cheap deaths which were partly due to the lighter not being explained at the early stage of the game. The controls are fairly simple and very straightforward, but the addition of a tutorial may have made the beginning less frustrating.

Tarsier put just as much love and attention into the sound effects. Long periods of silence will be broken up by torturous screams let out by unseen passengers, the creaking of the ship settling, and drips of leaky pipes. Again, nothing terrifying, but it just intensifies the feeling that something is waiting in the shadows to pop out and grab you at any moment.

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You will spend your time in the Maw evading a small number of enemies, most of which are the bosses of the game, many of which feature distorted features inspired by The City of Lost Children or Tim Burton. While like the setting, these are unsettling, they are not outright terrifying. These enemies will chase you multiple times throughout their designated level. These chases are a highlight of the game, although dark corridors leave little room for error; one misstep and you will have to begin the chase from scratch. While many levels will result in needing a few attempts, a perfect run gave me a sense of accomplishment that I haven’t gotten from a game in a while. These will eventually lead up to a whopping two boss fights. These are the only two instances of any sort of combat you will experience, both of which are mind benders and do offer a change of pace from the puzzles and chases you encounter. The enemy with freakishly long arms will likely be the most frustrating confrontation of the year.

The only other inhabitants of the Maw that do not try to kill you are small creatures reminiscent of a baby Pyramid Head from Silent Hill, which you can occasionally rescue or help in some way. These act as one of the collectibles of the game, which you must hug to claim. Doing so causes a tone ripped straight from Silent Hill, and shortly thereafter they disappear. Additionally, there are some other collectibles in the form of small pots that can be broken, and lamps or candles that can be lit. These do not add to the game in any obvious way aside from the associated achievements/trophies.

Unfortunately, these collectibles are the extent of replayability, beyond those who wish to complete the games vague list of achievements/trophies. Little Nightmares does run a little short on content for the $19.99 price of admission, with my first playthrough clocking in at a little over 4 hours. My wife managed to complete the game in an hour less. Despite this shortcoming, I would recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of its influences or horror games in general. I would not be surprised to see Little Nightmares on many gamers’ Game of the Year list, including my own.

BUY

Pros:

  • Atmosphere
  • Challenging Puzzles
  • Overall Design

Cons:

  • Lack of Replayability/Content
  • A Particular Boss Fight
  • Too Dark in a Few Areas

Little Nightmares was developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Namco Bandai for X1, PS4 and PC. The game was released on April 28th, 2017 for $19.99. The game was purchased by us for review on X1. For more information on Little Nightmares, please visit their official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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