Sept. 22, 2017
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Little Nightmares Review

Tarsier Studios embraces the creepy

May 1, 2017, 2:00 pm

Swedish developer Tarsier Studios has taken a page from the Playdead playbook to create one of the most fascinating side-scrolling/light puzzle games of this or any generation with Little Nightmares. A stunning reminder of the confusion we feel as children grappling with bad dreams, the game is equal parts Limbo or Inside, Little Big Planet and distorted Tim Burton dark whimsy/Spirited Away.

You wake, a tiny child in a raincoat, in the depths of some terrifying industrial dungeon. As with similar games in recent years, no explanation is given—you just know you’ve gotta get out of there. Slowly, you make your way ever upward through whatever the place may be (no spoilers, but it's probably not what you think it is) facing spooky, realistic surroundings and clever yet minimal environment-based puzzles. Other children are kept here, though you’re noticeably smaller, and the barely-there score accentuates every terrifying step.

The further you explore, the nicer the areas but the worse the enemies become. Little Nightmares is far more about atmosphere than it is about enemy encounters, but when they do throw a baddie in your way, you can bet it’ll be horrifying. One such monster is blind, a bandage draped around its eyes, but with heightened hearing and terrifyingly long arms. Another later nightmare comes in the form of a grotesque chef duo cooking who-knows-what. You can’t fight these creatures, so you must outwit them by moving slowly right near them or drawing them into another room and making a break for it. Obviously, this becomes stressful, but even as you must embrace trial and error to proceed, the game never feels tedious save an unfortunate and baffling hunger mechanic that is almost redeemed by adding a slight narrative element, but that mostly keeps the game from being flawless.

Little Nightmares winds up being short and sweet, but the dark magical realism coupled with dreamlike nostalgia and subtle nods to other properties drives the player forward and never overstays its welcome. This is the closest an interactive experience has come to capturing the urgency of a childlike nightmare, but make no mistake—you probably shouldn't give this thing to an actual kid. Secrets abound in every area, the narrative is digestible yet never on the nose and, perhaps most importantly, it becomes hard to put down the controller. Some may desire more gameplay, but the truth is that the game does everything it should without sacrificing pacing or ever talking down to the player. What’s that old adage about keeping them wanting more? Play this game, and soon.



+Gorgeous and terrifying; clever as hell

- Weird “hunger” moments; some objectives unclear

Little Nightmares

Developed by: Tarsier Games
Published by: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Rated T for Teen (spooky, scary!)

Xbox One, PS4, PC



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