Bandai Namco · Multi-platform · PC · Platformer · PS4 · Puzzle · Review · Tarsier Studios · XboxOne

Little Nightmares – Review

Format: PC (version tested) PS4, XboxOne.

Developer: Tarsier Studios.

Publisher: Bandai Namco.

Release Date: 28th April 2017.

From the opening minutes, Little Nightmares captivates with its mysterious world and a tense atmosphere that remains throughout the entirety of the game. You may urge to play around with your TV’s brightness settings, as Six, a small and fragile girl in a bright yellow raincoat, awakes in a world shrouded in darkness and obscurities with nothing but a lighter that is only enough to illuminate the immediate area around her.

Originally named Hunger, which is arguably a more fitting and appropriate title, Six battles hunger whilst traversing the Maw – a truly nightmarish underwater dwelling that you must navigate the protagonist through to escape. From the short space between the opening act to the finale, this game keeps you questioning its world and its utterly terrifying inhabitants, and the answers you do uncover are generally quite disturbing. The Maw seems to be a resort in which the wealthy come and indulge on their unquenchable appetites on a meat strict diet which doesn’t exclude a small girl in yellow raincoat. Before you meet these grotesque beings, you’ll notice that the world is just as twisted and distorted as its occupants with its level design. If it doesn’t tower above you, its unnaturally wide or long. The small protagonists is often just a few feet too short for a door handle, forcing you to improvise a way through the area via air ducts, trash chutes or by improvising with the objects around the environment. As unique and impressive as the design is it can however make it difficult to judge the depth of the screen, resulting in Six plummeting to her death because of a careless misstep off a narrow walkway or a poorly projected jump.20170428221544_1There are many concepts to speculate on as you traverse through the world. In just the opening couple of minutes, you find a body dangling from the rafters with a chair kicked back and an envelope on the floor. Such disturbing sights is commonplace in Little Nightmares and it never refrains from its unnerving theme. The environments often make you squint into the shadows in anticipation for the next surprise and each new area you find yourself in, you’ll be snapping the right stick to pan the camera as far as it’ll go to map the unknown territory as much as possible.

Despite Little Nightmares’ dark undertone, the game has a slightly cartoonist art style which is a striking distinction that gives it a unique personality. The way Six runs childlike around, moves chairs to reach door handles and throws objects around to hit elevator switches makes her an endearing character to control and her juvenile character portrays a sense of hope in world filled with despair.

Little Nightmares keeps a steady flow of play by rarely halting progress. There are puzzles and obstacles to overcome, but are designed in such way that the progression is made obvious after a couple of attempts. A HUD is non-existent, trusting the player to discover and work out their own way around the world. The game does suffer from some minor and infrequent clipping however as Six on occasions struggles to enter a few doors and openings which jolted the immersion slightly.20170428231534_1Your journey to finding freedom is compromised by a few unnerving and deformed creatures such as the Janitor who has unnaturally long arms that feels around the world after you. His visual impairment has developed for him a keen sense of smell and hearing. Stealth is a key mechanic in this game. Hiding under tables and in boxes are your allies and studying the environment for an escape route when looking for an opening in the enemy’s unpredictable patrol routes is essential. You can sprint, but unless it’s a scripted chase then it won’t get Six very far before she meets her inevitable demise.

The precarious nature of the objects in the world induce another sense of fear, as scaling precarious piles of plates and seemingly unstable furniture makes you wince in fear that it’ll all come crashing down and making a racket, alerting unwanted attention to your location.20170430014651_1The curtain falls a little too soon on this often terrifying yet gripping and enthralling adventure. That does mean though that Little Nightmares never runs out of ideas, and every new segment feels fresh and new and has a well-balanced contrast between curiosity and trepidation. The game does suffer from some mild worldly interactions issues and clippings, and it may not cast a light on the shadows cast by the likes of Limbo and Inside, but Little Nightmare’s audio design and visual tone makes it distinctive in its own merit. The journey to the games conclusion is full of unsettling questions and the unnerving level designs keeps the short adventure an intoxicating and truly terrifying experience.

 

Final Verdict – 8.1

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