You start this game knowing nothing and when you finish it, you still know nothing and as weird as this may sound, I really liked Little Nightmares. Games nowadays are made easy since everyone can or is playing something. As soon as you start a game you are blasted with tutorials, hints and rows of text detailing everything and anything you can do in the game.
Little Nightmares does nothing like that and that is its strongest point. You start the game and there’s no tutorial, no hints, no HUD, nothing, just this tiny girl wearing a yellow rain coat in what appears a giant “world” and you kinda have to move right in this 3D side-scrolling adventure. And the game does a fantastic job of telegraphing you on how to move, run, slide, jump and light your lighter through its excellent level design. This same “muteness” or deliberate lack of written and spoken details continues for the story itself. You don’t know where you are, what you are, why are you so small compared to everything else around you and what is happening?
You start on what appears to be the lower deck of this giant ship since it’s rocking back and forth and you kinda get this idea that you are trapped and looking to escape. As move forward there are subtle details, some very well hidden and some “hidden” in plain sight that fill you, as the player, on what is possibly going in this ship. But again, you really can only guess what in the hell is actually happening and when you think you’ve got it all figured out the game throws in a pretty nice twist which makes you rethink everything.
There are quite a few puzzles and there is still no hand holding, but the way that they are designed, the solutions just make sense. And I really liked that the game expected me to pay attention to the environment, to where can I climb, what can I throw, where can I hide and what can I press. Sure by the end of the game there were some elements which I didn’t understand like why did I have to light candles and lanterns, but hey, why not? I know, I know that they might serve as some kind of collectible, but still liked the lack of “why”.
Other outlets classify this into the “horror” genre, but it’s not a horror game. Unsettling is the best word I can use to describe the whole experience. There’s no scary music, no scary or creepy noises, two-ish “jump scares” and that’s about it. But this lack of background stuff makes for a great atmosphere. The creaking of the wood and metal beneath your feet, the flickering of a light bulb or the darkness of a vent, all build up an unsettling and uneasy feeling. You are alone and you feel like you are alone. Everything is out to get you even though there’s probably nothing out there.
There are however some creatures, but again, they are not terrifying or creepy per se. You can see them coming from miles and again, they are just unsettling and kinda disgusting to see. If they catch you, the camera just cuts away and you don’t see them doing any funny stuff to you. But you are disgusted by their look and to the game credit, later I kinda felt bad about them.
I finished the game in about 3-4 hours and while the ending is pretty ambiguous, in my opinion, I started thinking about what it all meant. And even as I am writing this review, I kinda feel that the guys and gals over at Tarsier Studios want to tackle and deliver some hidden messages about us, the world nowadays, its problems, our problems and our vices. I have my own twisted explanation that I go back and forth in my head of what Little Nightmares means and that’s surprising for a game nowadays. This is a game that needs to be played and experienced for yourself and well, you should. Thanks for reading.