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I just finished Little Nightmares, and as the credits just barely come to an end, I offer up a few thoughts before I’m on to the next game.

Transcript:

It’s time for a post-game smoke, where I give a few thoughts on a game as soon after playing it as possible.
The credits have rolled on Little Nightmares. If you aren’t playing Little Nightmares, you are dumb. Or you’ve already played it, and having had your mind blown, you’ve got grey matter all over the living room wall, and so without a functioning brain, you’re dumb. Either way, I’m talking to a dumb person. Which makes me dumb. We’re all dumb because of Little Nightmares.

If you’ve played Limbo or Inside, you’ve played parts of Little Nightmares. If you’ve played Unravel, you’ve played parts of Little Nightmares. If you’ve watched one of those obesity documentaries that are 90% clips of fat people eating on the ruse of establishing the narrative and setting the subject up for pre-credits epiphany, you’ve experienced parts of Little Nightmares. Come on, those obesity shows are just glutton snuff you sicko.

You play as six, the only spot of warm color in this otherwise drab environment, navigating the underbelly of what appears to be a Tim-Burton-inspired cruise ship.The focus here is on unease. You’re uneasy when passing through the choreographed set pieces meant to highlight six’s diminutive size. You’re uneasy as the glow from six’s lighter pulls erratic shadows away from holes that look just big enough to let an arm through..but…maybe not….oh crap!

You’re uneasy when you find similar looking gnomes imprisoned, then see those gnomes killed, wrapped, and then later you learn of the gastrointestinal inevitability of said gnomes. And for a moment you think “is this what Swedish game developers think is the reason American’s go on cruises,” but before you can muster the strength to write an angrily worded letter you shrug and say through a mouth paste of taco Bell that you’ve “never been on a cruise, so this game isn’t talking about me.”

This unease is punctuated by short chase scenes which are necessary to keep the game from getting too bogged down by atmosphere, but at the same time, the linear forward momentum, even when not part of a chase, prevents the player from really taking in the creepy detail. It’s a hard balance that I think Tarsier Studios hit as well as anyone could. When you’re asking players to become absorbed in the environment but simultaneously forcing the player to run through it, the end result is, well, the sort of mixed-stimuli that causes motion-sickness on a cruise ship. Maybe Tarsier Studios did it right afterall. I suddenly agree with the mixed-signal. I’m a sucker for meta commentary.

Little Nightmares isn’t a perfect game, but it is a near perfect experience, on par with the aforementioned Limbo, Inside, and Unravel. You have no reason to not play this game, perhaps if only as a palate cleanser. Though, not the typical type of flavor neutral palate cleanser between lengthy game sessions. Unless those lengthy game sessions are any of the bright and cheery Rayman or Mario type games. In that case, Little Nightmares is a perfect nibble of chloroform between handfuls of candy.

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