Review by Leigh
Ever wanted to feel like a rodent trapped inside a kitchen while avoiding angry chefs? Neither did I, until a couple of years ago when I saw a brief gameplay video of Little Nightmares. It had a vaguely familiar artistic flare, so when I saw the game along with all its DLC during the Steam summer sale I snatched it all up like a greedy little ‘Nome.’
Tarsier Studios (LittleBigPlanet) have done a tremendous job creating a beautiful, brutal and horrifying world filled with cute as well as terrifying creatures. Imagine if Tim Burton produced a side-scrolling puzzle platformer with a clay animation-esque style mashed together with some ideas plucked from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. That’s what you’d mainly get with Little Nightmares. Do you like Swedish melodic death metal? Check out Soilwork’s music video, titled “Light the Torch“. Why? Because the resemblance is uncanny and sets up your expectations.
You play the role of a little girl wearing a yellow raincoat, who’s name is Six apparently, or at least according to what I looked up on the game’s wiki page. Six is about the size of a rat and seems to be trapped inside a strange metallic structure filled with industrial styled rooms. You will be jumping, climbing, crouching and wading from room to room and set piece to set piece while solving some very basic puzzles. Six also has a little lighter to help navigate darker environments which adds to the mood nicely. You can do a bit of exploring through the mainly linear levels to ‘hug nomes,’ light lamps or smash hidden Geisha statues which unlock Extras, such as concept art and masks for your character which are only cosmetic rather than granting any special abilities.
Most of the fun and nail-biting tension comes in when you have to sneak past giant humanoid horrors. These big scary mofos lumber around their rooms performing various seemingly mundane tasks while you scuttle around the room like a cockroach, trying to keep out of sight. There’s various parts in the game where you MUST run to stay alive or solve a puzzle to prevent being snatched up by a giant and quickly turned into a meal.
The story is told without dialogue and it unfolds very naturally by using the environment, its inhabitants and some scripted events. The sounds, environments and atmosphere are top notch, instantly drawing you deep into this wonderfully bleak world. It’s a fun game with a conclusion which will satisfy most, so where does it go wrong?
It’s short. You can get about 6 hours out of it without the downloadable content. Journeying back through the game to find all the hidden stuff would extend play time, but after completing the title I wasn’t compelled to play it again for the purpose of unlocking a few pictures or masks.
It’s easy. Alright, I admit, I died more than a few times during this game, but I never found myself hopelessly stuck or lost. It was straightforward and didn’t feel like much of a challenge to that thick wet mass of grey matter in my skull. I found the 3D sidescrolling perspective a little hard to navigate at times. I’d be swinging from a light bulb to jump to a lever and after launching myself I’d always be a touch off target. Same problem when I was crawling along some thin plank of wood over a never ending abyss. Perhaps, I lack the relevant coordination to navigate such obstacles … but instead I’ll just point fingers and say it’s the game’s fault.
Some people may not give a flying fox about the mute main protagonist, lessening the impact of the horror elements due to her lack of character. Still, this is a cute and creepy little journey which is mostly enjoyable. The price tag is a little steep considering the length, so perhaps wait for a sale or until the price drops.
Speaking of money, the inevitable snatch for more cash arbitrary DLC is also available for purchase. There’s currently five DLC items available – two items are helmets you can put on your character, a a teapot and a sack, which do NOTHING other than change the appearance of your character, while the other three items are additional chapters with more levels where you play the role of a small boy who is attempting to escape their confines. These chapters are a definite step up in difficulty from the core game. The puzzles are harder and the enemies less forgiving. I had to look up a walkthrough for a particular segment of the game as I had trouble identifying that a puzzle even existed in one of the rooms. Some control issues were a touch frustrating for me when I was tasked to shine the boy’s torch at enemies to destroy them. I identified a small animation fault with the under water creature encounter. When caught by the monster I’m fairly certain its hand should drag the boy under the water. Instead, the boy stays at the top of the water and flails his limbs while the hand disappears into its depths without its intended victim. It doesn’t ruin playing the game, it’s just a small detail they forgot to fix.
Other than that, the story ties in nicely with the original game content featuring some overlapping moments. The additional three DLC chapters feels longer than the core game for some reason.
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