From the title alone, you would expect Little Nightmares to be a rather scary affair. When you see that the main protagonist is that of a little girl whose face you never see, then, well, I’ll quickly let you off should you wish to turn away and play something a little more friendly. But Little Nightmares isn’t scary – at least not in the horror sense – but it is instead a tense, chilling affair that raises more questions than it ever asks.
But Little Nightmares shouldn’t only be played by those who enjoy a bit of a shock or intrigue. In fact, it should be played by everyone. Quite simply because it’s very, very good. Inside good? Not quite, but it ain’t far off.
So the story. What can I tell you about Little Nightmares and Six, the girl who stars throughout? Well, to be honest, without completely and utterly spoiling every minute of it, not an awful lot. All you need to really know is that if you enjoyed what the brilliant Inside brought you, delivering a tale that gave you the chance to question not only what was going on in the game, but also your own life, then you’ll be glad to hear that Little Nightmares delivers much the same thing.
A completely mute story that is pushed along brilliantly by some stunning sound effects, there isn’t any point in the game where you would wish for anything to be different, except for maybe when you find yourself anticipating something wrongly and the usual platforming elements, which usually work so well, decide to give up the ghost. But the latter of those happens on a fairly infrequent basis so will never impact upon your game. The overall ‘hide and seek, run here and collect this’ vibe that it brings is done delightfully, so much so in fact that even when you find Six up close and personal with the freaks that frequent the Little Nightmares world, then all is good. At least if you manage to escape their clutches that is. Because if you get too close, then well, you’ll find yourself back at one of the well-placed checkpoints faster than you can imagine.
You see, Little Nightmares is very much a non-combat driven affair, and it is only when you reach the very end will you have to do anything but run and hide. It works well, and crouching under beds or hiding in the dark corner of a room until danger has passed ensures you are kept on tenterhooks from the very first moment right up to nearly the last. Admittedly, the creepy scenarios tail off a little towards the end, pretty much as the pace begins to pick up, and I’m a little worried the finale doesn’t quite live up to everything before it, but that’s not to say you won’t be dragged along for the ride. You will, and Little Nightmares won’t let go until you’ve see the credits roll. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before you do get to see that final roll call though and it would have been great to been given the opportunity to spend longer with Six.
Even though you may find yourself heading back in again, probably as you attempt to pick up the numerous collectibles which are littered about the freakish world, the whole little nightmare that you are in will easily be done in three hours straight. For a game which has received so much hype, and has been created so lovingly, that in itself is a bit of a crime. Thankfully it is no issue to jump back in to mop up those collectibles once Six’ story is complete, as a chapter selection option is in place to allow a swift return. It is a nice touch to see exactly which Nomes need to be hugged and how many statues need smashing in each section too, if only to help those achievement hunters and 100%’ers out.
Visually, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. Six stands out in her yellow coat like a beacon in the night sky, and whilst many of the surroundings you’ll help her venture through are dull affairs, they fit in with the dark undertone of the game brilliantly. The lighting effects are stunning – there is no other way of putting it – and whether you’re holding a lighter in order to explore every nook and cranny, or deciding to embrace a static torch so an entire room becomes open, then the way light emits around the fore and backgrounds more than impresses. Similarly, the audio does the job asked of it, pretty much ten times over, and whilst you may not notice it immediately, will understand exactly when the tense moments are coming. In fact, the creepy intro music which accompanies the main menu sets everything up brilliantly.
Due to these high production values – or at least I’m guessing it is due to the amount of quality included – there are some awfully long loading times in place, and whilst much of the game flows from scene to scene without a hitch, the initial wait is a bit of a pain. But hey, when the actual gameplay found within is so good, I guess a slightly longer than usual loading screen is just about bearable.
Little Nightmares is a well created, superbly executed affair. I’d prefer it to be longer and I have to admit to not only being disappointed, but also shocked, at its short length. In fact, unless you’re going back through things for a second, third or fourth time, just in order to pick up all the collectibles, then chances are you’ll be done with the five chapters and then everything Bandai Namco and the development team at Tarsier Studios have given you in no more than a few quick hours. I guess the price reflects that though and when something is so good, perhaps it’s best to keep it at an enjoyable length.
If you’re after a tense game that will have you questioning every little moment from start to finish, then Little Nightmares is most definitely for you.