STAFF REVIEW of Little Nightmares (Xbox One)


Tuesday, May 9, 2017.
by Chad Goodmurphy

Little Nightmares Box art As human beings we’re wired to experience and deal with fear, whether it manifests itself through physical dread, overwhelming anxiety, or something else. This emotion can help us survive, get us through difficult times, and lead to some extraordinary things, but it’s almost always overwhelming whenever it appears. Of course, that’s especially true of nightmares, which are the result of a myriad of factors that allow our brains to take us to dark, disturbing, and downright scary places as we slumber within the safety of our bed sheets.

It’s in the realm of the horrific where Swedish developer Tarsier Studios found the inspiration for its latest project, Little Nightmares. As such, it goes without saying that what unravels within the game is not for those who are easily scared, or anyone who finds it difficult to sleep without a light on. There are things that go bump in the shadows here…and there are lots of them.

Developed by a team that previously worked on LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway Unfolded, Little Nightmares is very much a LIMBO-esque puzzle platformer. It’s dark, dreary, and leaves almost everything to the imagination, while forcing you to deal with uneasy situations, not to mention the near constant risk of death. Through this, it’s also part survival game, as the lead character must do anything in her power to run, hide or jump away from the danger that surrounds her.

As the almighty player, we take control of a young, raincoat clad girl named Six. Alone and scared, she finds herself in the middle of a strange and downright disturbing vessel named the Maw. It’s where she first wakes up, confused and hungry, and where she must attempt to escape from if she hopes to survive.


You see, the Maw isn’t a nice place, nor is it sanitary or holy in any way. It’s something straight out of nightmares, and has trapped unsuspecting kids (and gnome-like creatures) for both game and pleasure. Kids who were likely taken from their homes without anyone knowing, having their lives and destinies changed forever.

Our young, always covered heroine begins her journey in the vessel’s damp and dingy bowels. There, she must run, jump and climb her way through dangerous environments, all while solving somewhat basic environmental puzzles. Examples of such tests include finding a power switch in order to avoid being electrocuted while going through a metallic gate, using a gear to move a box so that it will take you to where you need to go, and grinding meat into something that can be used as a swing.

Still, while Little Nightmares offers a hefty dose of puzzles that one must solve in order to safely progress, it’s the game’s dangerous take on hide and seek that ends up being most memorable. I say that because it’s the creatures that inhabit the Maw who make this experience what it is. They’re out for blood, you see, and want to satiate their most inhuman desires by killing or eating Six in awfully gross ways. As such, it’s important to lure them away from you, or hide from them whenever possible.

Sometimes that isn’t an option though, and a disturbing chase will ensue.


Six is defenseless, scared and alone, and there’s almost always something after her. In fact, after the first act of the game, each progressive chapter (and environment) offers up its own types of frightening enemies. This includes a long armed humanoid who can’t see, but can smell you awfully well; multiple bloated and diseased chefs, whose sleeping arrangements remind me of something out of a demented take on Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie; engorged, obese and downright horrifying rich folk who will chase you like a herd of sea lions, and the Lady of the ship herself.

Needless to say, the Maw is a dark and disturbing place, which exists as a tapestry of horror. What goes bump in the night there is real, and not just a figment of your imagination. Thus, it behooves you to run, hide and inch your way through its horrors, else you risk losing both life and limb. Be warned, though: While it may be possible to survive all of the denizens and deathtraps that this vessel has in store for you, what you’ve gone through will end up changing you as it does Six.

Don’t expect everything to come easy either, because Little Nightmares has some issues that combine to make it more frustrating than it ever should’ve been.

For starters, the platforming is not always as polished or pixel perfect as one would hope. What makes things more difficult though is the game’s camera angle, which offers a side view of everything that unfolds. It’s cinematically pleasing, yes, but it can make it hard to gauge whether Six is walking down the middle of a plank of wood, or if she’s at risk of falling off the edge. Of course this also factors into the platforming, as the occasionally wonky depth perception can lead to more than its fair share of falls.


It is also true then, that Little Nightmares is more of a trial and error game than many will like. It doesn’t hold your hand, which is a good thing, though it also suffers as a result, because some puzzle solutions are rather obtuse. It can also be unclear as to where Six is supposed to go, which adds to the fright factor but leads to a lot of unnecessary deaths due to trial and error. Plus, there’s the darkness, which – at the recommended brightness level – can sometimes engulf switches that you’re supposed to use, making you run around like a chicken with your head cut off until you somehow stumble upon them.

The aforementioned flaws turn what could have been a great game into one that is merely quite good, which is unfortunate given that there’s a lot of heart to be found here. Still, even with its problems, Little Nightmares is an easy game to recommend to those who happen to be fans of games like LIMBO. That’s because not only is it scary, disturbing, and full of rich symbolism, but it’s also quite the experience, thanks to some great-looking visuals, excellent character design and some of the most unsettling music and sound effects that you’ll ever hear.




Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.2 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10

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