Little Nightmares PC Review

Little Nightmares plays like many a platformer, but will leave its mark on you thanks to its disturbing imagery, tense chases and great pacing.

By Woozie, Posted 29 Apr 2017

Inside a ship, under a dim light, Six, a small girl donning a raincoat, wakes up. An image of a woman pops into her mind and she’s set to go. Little Nightmares takes a similar approach to titles like Inside, throwing you in the shoes of a child you know nothing of, in a world you know little about, apart from the fact that you don’t want to be there. That is fairly obvious in Little Nightmare’s ironclad, dimly lit room, but how does Six’s attempt at an escape play out and, more importantly, is it worth your time?

Little Nightmares plays like many a platformer. As Six, your abilities are limited to grabbing, dragging, throwing objects and lighting various lamps with your lighter which can also act as a portable light source that comes in handy in dark spaces. While the game doesn’t go out of its way to provide anything different or new in terms of its platforming, it contextualizes it well. You’ll find yourself guiding Six to climb giant bookshelves and plates. In order to reach door handles or levers, you’ll often have to find something to climb on. This makes for about half of the game and, apart from allowing you to get closely acquainted with the game’s world, it passes as functional. The other half will be spent using the same mechanics, but in different scenarios.

Little Nightmares, Screenshot, PC, Review

Little Nightmares throws enemies your way on occasion. As you’re a little girl, unable to fight them, you must use other tools in order to outsmart and evade them. Some enemies use sound, while others require sight to spot you. Thus, you can use ambient noises to your advantage, be it for covering your sprint, or by throwing something in a certain direction to distract foes. When you’re not sneaking, you’re taking part in tense chases.  These are by far the best moments in Little Nightmares, the grotesque foes, teaming up with great soundtrack to get your heart racing. At times, certain obstacles, such as large doors cannot be opened unless you get an enemy to do so. This often means exposing yourself, in a way or another, and having enemies chase you to a certain location. This alternation between having to be silent and careful and requiring to put yourself in danger creates some very palpable tension, which culminates in dread, as one moment you find yourself alone, hearing just a foe’s heavy breathing, while the other you’re running away from them.

Little Nightmares nails atmosphere right from the start, becoming more and more unsettling as you go on. If in the beginning obscure rooms, littered with trash and torn wallpaper set the tone, as you progress everything ramps up. The industrial portions of ships, alternate with rooms which are supposed to house a simulacrum of life. Bloated, deformed humans make the Maw their home, going about their activities. The music behind the game knows when to pan out, and amplify certain feelings like loneliness or dread. Little Nightmares doesn’t pride itself on gore, but has, nevertheless moments when it does step into the realm of brutality, using it as a last resort to overcome crippling obstacles. This persists through to the satisfying conclusion. As deformed as the foes Six faces are, there’s still something very much real about them.

Little Nightmares, Screenshot, PC, Review

There are a number of times that light is used to a very good effect. Then, another area where Little Nightmares succeeds is in maintaining the idea of vulnerability. Enemies are always introduced from a distance, as part of a massive environment. When the silhouette of something in the distance is twice your size, you can’t help but feel small. This is kept up throughout the rest of the game as well, with something as common as chairs being twice, if not three times your size. To the inhabitants of the Maw, you’re maybe as tall as a book but, quite possibly, less heavy. There’s a sense of claustrophobia that was present throughout the time I spent with Little Nightmares. The game does place you in small rooms, sometimes with more than one foe around, however, even large spaces retained it.

You might get the impression of Little Nightmares being a 2.5D platformer, but that’s not the case, as the game makes use of fully 3D environments. From a visual standpoint, this benefits the game, as there’s some great attention to detail behind the environments and the enemies. Passing through the kitchen will have you witness a cook violently splitting a piece of meat, with a lost sense of pride on his face. A feast, has guests madly gobbling down on whatever food the chefs could provide. Seeing all these key moments in action triggers both appreciation, for the obvious dedication put into them, but also a sense of being repelled, an impression of sin and madness made tangible. From a gameplay perspective, however, it can cause frustration, as solutions can be obscured by the camera. The keyboard controls being finicky at times can also bring pauses to immersion, causing frustration when dealing with certain precision jumps that may or may not be timed. This happens in a few cases where the object you’re supposed to jump to is too small to know exactly how to angle your jump, or during one particular chase where the running direction changes from horizontal to a “towards the foreground” type of approach, without any proper warning. Be that as it may, these stumbles don’t mar the overall experience.

Little Nightmares, Screenshot, PC, Review

The best thing about Little Nightmares is the disturbing, terrifying aesthetic it masterfully presents and uses to unsettle the player. It never feels like it’s overused, either. You get just the right amount, so that the idea that you’re part of a little girl’s nightmare is maintained until the end. The rather common gameplay has its hiccups, however, the well-paced chases, vulnerability on the main character, sense of danger and the desire to find out what’s going on with the silhouette you see at the start of the game do push you on. People basing a game’s worth solely on length as compared to the price, will not be satisfied to know that Little Nightmares can be finished in 2 hours, provided you rush through it. I spent closer to six, as I both found myself stuck on several occasions and found myself lingering on in some areas, admiring the game’s environments. Those interested more in experience, will find a platformer that plays in a fairly common manner, yet which provides great atmosphere, tense chases and a good amount of disturbing imagery to set off all sorts of reactions from them.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Developer(s): Tarsier Studios
Genres: Platformer, Adventure
Themes: Horror, Thriller
Release Date: 2017-04-28

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