Horror games are all the rage. Whether its zombies, serial killers, the unexplained, or mystical, horror content will always be available as long as the public keeps buying it. It’s why we had to sit through seven SAW movies after all. Little Nightmares was sold to me on the basis that it preys on childhood fears. Maybe my childhood was different from an average kid, but I didn’t find anything about Little Nightmares particularly scary.That’s not to say that Little Nightmares isn’t a scary game though; there are plenty of things in this game to make a player feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Little Nightmares stars Six, a hungry nine-year-old girl trapped in The Maw, A large, ship-like vessel with some large, obese, humanoid creatures that are constantly in pursuit of Six. Your job, is to escape and tame your hunger. While the story sounds like a premise we have seen before, Little Nightmares manages to deliver a heart-pounding creepy experience from the perspective of a small child. Unlike other games, Little Nightmares doesn’t rely on jump scares. Its eeriness comes from the low lights, creepy figures, and overwhelming sense of feeling alone.
Little Nightmares is incredibly atmospheric. Throughout the entire game players will find themselves feeling a sense of dread and intensity. Low lighting, moody sounds, and playful shadows will keep one second guessing as Six travels through The Maw. Personally, I didn’t find much fear, but I did appreciate the atmosphere and environment that Little Nightmares tried to create. Scenes like a seemingly never-ending staircase provide both just enough and not enough detail to make Six feel small and alone in this vast world. At the same time a cramped kitchen can add the feeling like Six has nowhere to run and hide. More than anything, Little Nightmares excels at setting the scene and letting the player play out the intended roles. Even if that means death at times.
Six moves and controls wonderfully. She has a bit of a floaty jump, but the controls are smooth and precise. Most of the time, any deaths that occurred were purely user error. As with any platforming, there are times where the player will think they are jumping to one area, but land somewhere completely different. Many of my deaths came from not positioning Six in the correct spot. In times where Six is being chased, your movements better be spot on, otherwise Six will become just another victim of The Maw.
Included in the creepy visuals of Little Nightmares, is a completely creepy score. The large areas I previously mentioned are accompanied by eerie sounds. Tinny effects only echo the fact that you are on some sort of mechanical vessel. The gurgling of Six’s stomach when a hunger attack happens is so real I thought my own stomach was gurgling. Music and sound intensifies when Six is being pursued and fades away when things calm down. Hearing only sporadic sounds when you are all one only adds to the creepiness of Little Nightmares. One thing this game does great, is make you feel alone and scared through these clever uses of sound design.
The overall character design across Little Nightmares is incredibly stylish. From the pointed hood of Six’s coat to the large and obese characters that are in pursuit of her. They have almost a kaiju feel. As if someone was wearing a costume of an over exaggerated human figure. Backgrounds are wonderfully painted and blend in and out of the scenery. There are moments of darkness and shadows that are thrown in with purpose. Little Nightmares isn’t dark because it can be, it’s dark because it wants to be. When dark areas become illuminated they are done so in such a way that it almost feels like watching a movie. The graphics aren’t up there with modern AAA titles, but that only adds to the morbid cuteness of Little Nightmares. There is an innocence that can be found in this game through it’s graphics that you wouldn’t get from a sixty dollar game; and that’s not a bad thing.
Little Nightmares is a well done atmospheric game that is pretty straight forward. There is some room for exploring, but the game itself is mostly linear. The story is unfolded strictly through gameplay. There is no dialogue so it will be up to the player to interpret the story as they see fit. While the main game doesn’t leave much for replayability, there is some DLC that will allow you to play as another child aboard The Maw. There are collectibles to be found inside The Maw, but other than that there is not much more room for exploration. It would have been nice to see more bits of lore scattered throughout the game. I know I spent a lot of time (and had a lot of deaths) because I was curious to explore as much of The Maw as I could. Having some story bits or something else to show for it would have been nice. I do feel that The Maw is intentionally left barren of the previously mentioned items so that it can encourage players to fill in the story in their own heads. Sometimes our imagination is much worse than reality.
Little Nightmares is on sale for $19.99 across all consoles and PC (Steam). For $20 this game is quite the value. It will give you a good chunk of hours exploring The Maw and trying to find your way out. There is enough game and scenery here to keep you satisfied while at the same leave you wanting more.If you’re looking for an atmospheric, creepy game that will make you feel uncomfortably alone, then I recommend Little Nightmares. Find more information on the official website.
A review copy of Little Nightmares was provided on Xbox One for review.