Play with the lights on!
This year feels like the summer of Steve, paying homage to the summer of George Costanza. First I was able to attend Pax East for the first time and in June I’ll be hitting LA for E3 again, doing it for the Hub. During my trip to snowy Boston for Pax East, I was able to stop by my buddies at the Bandai Namco booth and see their horror game, Little Nightmares. Take my advice, play this game with the lights on!
Without giving too much away, you play the role of Six, a small heroine that is trying to make her way out of the Maw, a haunted ship-like vessel that has some of the creepiest creatures and monsters on board. Little Nightmares reminds me of a point and click adventure game where you need to think on your feet and react to every situation that’s presented to you.
All you have to “defend” yourself is your wits and a lighter but since there aren’t any other enemies other than the large monsters that you’ll encounter during each chapter, you will only use the lighter to help you see in the dark. These creatures are some of the weirdest and creepiest monsters I’ve dealt with in a game and when you’re not expecting them to jump out at you is when you get your “scare the hell out of you” moments!
Little Nightmares feels like a survival horror game mixed with a puzzle solver. What I mean by that is there are plenty of moments that you will be running for your life, trying to get away from something that wants to eat/kill you. The other part of the time you will need to think about how to find a key or how to keep the monsters from spotting you and if they do spot you, how are you getting away from them and that usually means running or hiding under a table. There were times where the monsters shouldn’t have been able to see me and they discovered me and the same could be said at times where I should have been dead to rights at times and I was able to run past the monster.
There were other times where it looked like there was no option but to run past the monsters, like during the dining hall chapter where you had to walk into the room and immediately knock the bottle over. That in turn would alert the monsters to your location and they would know you were in the room and my opinion that is a bad design for part of a level. If the game wants you to be stealthy, then there shouldn’t be a bottle that tells the enemy exactly where you are!
The art style in the game was amazing in my opinion. Some of the locales in the game, such as the Maw and the part where you’re traversing into the ship, climbing the anchor chain look fantastic. Also, by the way everything towers over Six, you genuinely fear for your next encounter while playing because you truly have no idea what’s coming next.
The game has you set the brightness before you start but it was still very difficult to get the perfect setting as there were times where the level was just too dark when I thought I had it set perfect. The controls were a little touchy at times, like when I was trying to perform an action very quickly like running and climbing. When you needed to think on your feet and do something quickly, that’s when you noticed the controls weren’t as tight as they could have been. Games that rely on stealth and not being seen need tight controls and the controls for Little Nightmares could have been a little bit better.
I felt disappointed by the ending because it felt like the whole game was building up to this point, leading up to this moment. You’ll have to beat Little Nightmares to see what I’m talking about here since I’m not in the business of spoiling games for people but I will say that the end felt like it was missing something.
I won’t go into details about the ending but I will mention the final boss as it reminded me of a Legend of Zelda boss fight where you needed the mirror shield to defeat your enemy but that’s all the information your getting on that. The game allows you to start from different chapters during gameplay as well as concept art that you can unlock. I found the game easier to beat in one play and not going back to each chapter.
It’s these reasons that I’m giving Little Nightmares for the PlayStation 4 an 8.5/10. I would like to thank Bandai Namco for the review code. If you liked the review, you can check out my interview with Matthew Compher, Level Designer for Tarsier Studios, who worked on Little Nightmares.