Little Nightmares sticks out like a sore yet unique thumb. Among the shooters, sports titles, and action games of today’s marketplace, Little Nightmares is a subtle, clever, and passive game which features no combat of any sort; but it’s exactly this that makes the game a standout addition to the already impressive lineup of games in 2017.
At it’s core, Little Nightmares is a puzzle-platformer with splashings of stealth, physics-based obstacles, and exploration. Players take on the role of Six, a small creature trying to survive a strange and frightening place known as the Maw – it’s very Tim Burton-esque, with elongated creatures and plumpy monstrosities trying to get their spiny hands on you. Why? Well, there’s no clear answer to that, and that’s what makes Little Nightmares so interesting.
There’s no background or prologue to what unfolds. You’re thrown into the tiny, raincoat-clad body of Six, and then thrust into the haunting world of the Maw – allowing you to uncover what exactly the Maw is, and why you’re trying to escape.
And the story isn’t the only element of the game without initiation. Gameplay wise, Little Nightmares wants the player to learn and try as you progress. There’s very little hand-holding, as all you have in your arsenal is a grab (used for pushing, pulling, and carrying), a crouch, sprint, and the ability to light a match for some light (which can work for or against you in certain circumstances).
The game leads you through the floating labyrinth of the Maw through different rooms, which basically act as puzzles or enemy-based obstacles, which you’ll need to solve or outsmart in order to make it to the next room. It’s extremely satisfying to overcome each of the Maw’s difficult situations thrown at you, using lateral, physics-based thinking and clever traversal options. None of the puzzles require too much pondering, and they’re more trial and error and understanding the gameplay mechanics. Some areas can be frustrating due to some disappointingly lose platforming controls – leaving you completely misjudging the depth of a jump – but it’s nothing that can’t be remedied with a second or third try.
What the game lacks in polished platforming it makes up for in novelty and creativity. Like the Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers games of yesteryear, you’ve got to think big but act small to get where you need to be. From climbing up book shelves to leaping across stove-tops, it’s a nostalgic throwback to the pint-sized adventures of yesteryear, albeit with an injection of terror.
Little Nightmares may seem small in scope and diminutive in scale, but, even with it’s noticeable 3-hour playthrough time, the game is a refreshingly ambitious take on a neglected genre that fans of puzzle and platforming games should give a chance.