Little Nightmares is a game that pulls you in right from the opening button press and never releases it’s grasp until it ends, leaving you wanting more. Very few games have perfected the intricate aesthetics of every detail of every level, but I honestly feel that pure heart and talent went into making Little Nightmares one of the best games I’ve ever played.
It takes a lot for me to say something positive about side scrolling based adventures, but Little Nightmares has something special that many other games don’t have. The opening sequence set you up with the main character, Six, which is trapped in an underwater resort called The Maw. Details of the story are never fully explained, but the creepy nature of the environment and the extremely disturbing creatures you come across make your objective clear, you must escape. Story is a big aspect of games for me, but Little Nightmares bare bones approach adds to the overall creepy nature of the game. I feel like the less you know, the more gaps you get to fill in with your imagination. With how dark and twisted the environment is you can clearly see where they want your mind to wonder.
I do wish the game maybe introduced you to a bit more of what was going on, because what is there is truly interesting to be a piece of, but I’m also glad that it stuck to letting you discover things on your own. This allowed the game to properly build and properly scare you with something other than jump scares. Which leave you wondering….what exactly was I just running from, and why? It’s this simply thought provoking gameplay that makes me absolutely adore the game.
Instead the story is brought to life through astonishing environmental details. As you progress through The Maw you will come across rooms lit just enough to show you something disturbing, or openly lit rooms that you for sure don’t want to be in that long. There will be hanging corpses, and shadows that walk across rear walls. The camera will pan just enough to show you something creepy reaching in from the side, then quickly snap back to Six.
The sound design tops everything off with very fine detail put into everything you touch, making it all feel authentic. In one level I was creeping behind an enemy and accidentally knocked over some blocks. This very subtle crash followed by bounces was so heart pounding. In another mission you are tasked with leaping onto a piano and I actually had to try this part twice, each time jumping to different areas which led to the piano actually sounding different.
Then the game also throws enemies at you which react to every little thing you do. If a floor board creeks too loud they will turn and search the area for you. If you jump on a piano then heart pounding music will kick in as the enemy slams open a door and tries to grab you from the shadows. The game does a phenomenal job keep creatures just barely out of reach to really raise your blood pressure. Several levels consist of a chase-like sequence where you need to be quick on your feet and know your surroundings to get away.
One of my absolute favorite moments of the game was sneaking by an enemy that seemed to be eating people, and I finally made it to another room. Once I got in the room the door opened behind me and the enemy walked in. I had to quickly run to the corner of this room and duck, hoping that his hand wasn’t going to reach in my direction. This tense moment lasted a good minute and I was literally on the edge of my seat, pressure the button on my controller as hard as I possibly could, asking myself if there was a way out. Then he finally opened the door and went into the next room I had to enter and I could breathe again.
Above all the creepy creatures, dark environments, and interesting sound design there is a platforming side scrolling game hidden behind it all. Thankfully Little Nightmares isn’t a typical side scroller that forces you to do very intricate puzzles that take forever to figure out. Instead the game is straight forward thinking, allowing you to examine your environment and quickly think of a way to get out of the situation you find yourself in. This takes some to get used to because you think the game is trying to be more complex than it is, but once you realize it’s just simply thinking through the situation you will quickly start advancing rather easily.
The game is very well crafted in making you feel “small” too. You will be climbing on book shelves and a book might fall when you grab it, or you will be hanging on doors that openly very eerily, or slowly pushing things over to find a better route around the room. In some levels you are set with sneaking around enemies and will need to throw noisy monkeys to distract them, or simply find a way to knock some items over, then bolt the other direction. A lof of the design relies heavily on utilizing sound and shadows to sneak around, but suddenly mishaps like accidentally bumping into a monkey can lead to very fearful runs. That’s what is so great about the title. It isn’t jump scaring you all the time, instead you feel fear of simply being heard or seen.
Some areas may take some “trial and error” but it seems decent enough to at least give you checkpoints in proper places to start over where you need to be. The only complaint I have is that the “grab” feature of the game was a bit iffy at times. Mostly when trying to climb or leap to ledges it was hit or miss, but other than that the game feels very polished.
Overall, I’ve never given a game a perfect score before, but this game totally deserves it.
It is a cheaper title which makes the shorter gameplay okay to me, but everything about this game is astonishing. This game has set the bar for future titles in terms of being a complete experience from head to toe and there is very little to dislike at all about the game. The dark tones mixed with the child-like nature of Six blend so beautifully, and the game itself is crafted so well, that it simply is a must play for everyone.