I completely missed out on the hidden gem that is Little Nightmares when it dropped back in 2017 and was unaware of its existence until the announcement and release of the demo of its sequel Little Nightmares 2. Playing the demo without any fanfare, I revisited the prequel as it is currently free on Xbox Live Gold until the end of January plus it recently went on sale on PSN for $5, around PHP250, for the base edition.
Little Nightmares tell the tale of Six, a prisoner inside a strange ship filled with frightening denizens out to capture our protagonist. As Six attempts to escape and rescue other prisoners in her wake, she must elude the ship’s many horrors using only her wits and a trusty lighter.
Take note that this review tackles merely the base game of Little Nightmares and none of the expansions.
What drew me to Little Nightmares was its masterful visual storytelling. You could just capture the amazing world building that has spanned such a claustrophobic setting by its visually arresting backgrounds and set pieces. Just like similar puzzle platformers of its nature such as Inside, it lets the pictures tell the story rather than long drawn out exposition told through dialogue or narration.
The game is just largely unsettling for its art style, which is quite reminiscent of Tim Burton’s works like Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride but more accurately depicted in Coraline. Harrowing themes such as human trafficking and cannibalism are alluded to as they are mostly what children fear the most, but is shown to us in graphic detail.
Largely, the game succeeds in allowing you feel heightened levels of stress and anxiety through the seemingly helpless nature of Six and the daunting obstacles she faces. There are times when endlessly dying becomes gradually frustrating as the answer to such puzzles aren’t in plain sight. The controls are easy to get into as well as not much needs to be learned besides running, climbing, and lining yourself up for platforming.
I feel that having a short playtime of roughly around three and a half hours to complete the main story is more than enough to get through. A second or third playthrough will dilute the impact of the horrors as we already know what’s coming, which we could use for speed runs or to complete our collectibles to get a platinum trophy or a full gamer score.
While you could complete it in one sitting, it would greatly depend on your constitution and how much you could handle the setting. Sometimes even the mood lighting could deter you from progressing, as even fifteen minutes of play time could feel like forty as the setting slowly gets to you. My playthrough stands at two hours and forty minutes, but it felt equal to ten hours of an open world game like Days Gone.
There is only so much lack of lighting you could probably withstand before putting the game down, and in my case, I divided the five levels into different play times. I finished the first two levels one day, level three on a separate day, and finally completed four and five while waiting for The Maiden to download. It is emotionally exhausting as a whole, but I was glad it didn’t drag out.
What We Liked:
- Triumph in visual storytelling.
- Succeeds as a horror game with beautiful and unsettling visuals.
- Short game, perfect for gamers strapped for time.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Constant darkness gets exhausting.
- It may be short but 15 minutes could feel like 45.
- May not sit well for those easily disturbed.
Verdict: Buy It!
Little Nightmares is a game that needs to be experienced at least once. Compared to similar games like Inside or Limbo, I feel that Little Nightmares kept my curiosity going despite of the really disturbing imagery that was presented. I was invested in Six’s journey and was reluctantly curious with what happens next. As a game that you could complete in a weekend (or an afternoon if you’re brave enough), it is very respectful of your time even if at times certain levels feel like they go on for hours.
You can’t complain too much with its price point as it is currently on sale on the PlayStation Store for $5 and free on Xbox Live Gold until the end of January 2021. Even at its full price of $19.99, it still gives you a good scare and a pretty good visual story versus many incomplete live service games these days. Whether you go through it once or multiple times, there is no doubt that this experience could indeed dig up some dark thoughts buried in the corner of your mind.