Release Date: 18th of May, 2018 (EU & NA) & 7th of June, 2018 (2018)
Remember when you were younger and believed that monsters lurked under your bed and in the closet? Well prepared to face your childhood fears again as we review Little Nightmares: Complete Edition on Nintendo Switch.
Since I first saw Little Nightmares being demonstrated at Barcelona Games World back in 2016, I have been wanting to play it on a Nintendo Console since. When the game released in 2017, there was no sign of a Switch release and thought no more of it. Now, at last, Little Nightmares is here and my interest in the game returned.
Published by Bandai Namco, Little Nightmares is a dark puzzle platformer developed by Tarsier Studios. It was originally going to be called ‘Hunger’ back in 2014 but was later changed to Little Nightmares in August 2016 when Bandai Namco announced their worldwide publishing agreement. It was released in 2017 on PS4, Xbox One and PC and received relatively positive reviews. A string of DLC was later added to the game and follows a new protagonist known as “The Kid.” The Nintendo Switch version includes all the DLC along with the original story.
Little Nightmares focuses on a small little girl wearing an anorak and known only as Six. On a mysterious vessel called the ‘Maw,’ Six awakens from a nightmare. She pulls herself out of her suitcase bed and musters the courage to escape her confines. As she makes her way from the bellows of the vessel, she will see many disturbing and twisted things. Grotesquely deformed creatures patrolling the passageways, Malnourished children are trapped in cages. Morbidly Obese monsters that gorge and gorge and will stop at nothing to eat you. Governing above all is a masked woman that oversees the macabre goings-on.
It turns out that the Maw is a refuge for Gluttonous monstrosities that eat and eat until they can’t anymore. Pretty much everything is on the menu, including children. Poor little six has to escape the Maw before she falls victim and is turned luncheon meat. The story seems pretty straight-forward but there is much more than meets the eye. Six was not kept in a cage like the other children, nor is she as innocent as you initially believe. There are many different malevolent creatures that want to hurt you like The Janitor, with his long arms that he reaches out with to fumble his way around. The oily leeches that can be found in the darkest depth of the Maw that try to suffocate you.
The Twin chefs try to chase you down and chop you up in the Kitchen. The Guests will slither across the floor like a ravenous stampede of snakes in order to get their chops around you. The Lady, who is dressed like a geisha, is the darkest and enigmatic of all and seems to have some kind of connection with Six but it is not known what it is. At some point in the game, you will also encounter tiny creatures known as Nomes. They possess no threat to you and will run away from you until you catch them and give them a hug. The fate of these creatures and how they came to be will eventually be revealed as you play through the Kid’s story.
Little Nightmare is visually dark yet intriguing. It takes all those things that used to scare us when we were children and manifests them before your very eyes. Everything is huge and towers over the protagonist. Just climbing a set of stairs can seem daunting as the camera pans out, revealing the entirety of the room you are currently in and the long fall to the bottom should you lose your footing. The lighting and also lack of it in places is very clever as your field of view narrows, limited to only the flicker of your lighter or flashlight. Little Nightmares is not so much about jump scares, but the fear of anticipating that something may attack you at any moment. What is most intriguing perhaps is that your character sports a bright yellow anorak that contrast against the drab and dreary surroundings you find yourself in.
The music is eerie and manages to keep you slightly unnerved the whole time you are playing. It picks up pace as soon as an enemy has spotted you and you will hear a heart beating sound get louder and louder. Sound is just as important as sight, if not more so. One particular character known as ‘The Janitor’ is blind but has an acute sense of hearing. Your footsteps are loud on bare floorboards so you have to sneak pass slowly as not to alert him. Interacting with objects has their own unique sound effects and can alert any monsters in the area. Sometimes you have to make some noise to lure the monsters away so you can make your escape in the other direction.
Little Nightmares is played in the third person perspective and has a lot of platforming elements to it, as well as puzzles. They make are the core gameplay mechanic along with exploration and there are very few helpful clues that leave you to your imagination to solve the puzzles. When you first play, you are given a brief tutorial on the basic actions of your character. Throughout the rest of the game, you have to paw at and manhandle anything that could play a part in escaping the room you are in. Sometimes you have to move chairs, boxes or stalls. You may have to operate a series of switches in order to unlock a door and then make a mad dash over some suitcases in a flooding room in order to get to it.
You really do have to possess an investigative mind as nothing is straightforward some rooms can stump you. Movement controls can be a bit clumsy at times, especially when walking across narrow boardwalks and falling to your death. Jumping can be a bit tricky too and requires precision when lining up to jump from a platform to a swinging lamp and other objects. In The Kid’s Story, You will even have to depend on the Nomes to help you at times by throwing them up to reach switches and levers that are too high for you.
Prepare yourself to constantly be on edge as not to become folly for the monsters that inhabit the Maw. You will get caught many times and die but you will always respawn at the last checkpoint. You will know if you have reached a checkpoint when you see a white glowing eye in the bottom right corner. Death and capture is more of an inconvenience that grows tedious over time. Not because of being killed or captured but because of the long wait time it takes to load up from the previous check-point. Though you spend most of your time running away, there are instances where you do have to fight back. This is a welcoming change of pace that allow’s Six and the Kid to overcome their monstrous captors, be it electrocuting the Granny or amputating the extremely long arms of the Janitor.
The Nintendo Switch version does have its perks over other platforms in that all DLC is included and you do get a bonus Mask to wear, the Pakku Mask that bears a not so uncanny resemblance to Bandai Namco’s mascot, Pac-Man. There is also the extra benefit of being able to play anywhere you like in handheld mode and that the Little Nightmares: Complete Edition on Switch also takes advantage of HD Rumble. There are collectibles in the game as well like lamps, flotsam and Nomes to hug but they serve no real purpose in the Switch version as they serve as requirements for achievements which, the Switch version doesn’t have.
There are some relatively small flaws but they can be overlooked by the pure experience of the game alone. Little Nightmares takes the Horror genre that has been tried and tested and has given it a unique twist. To experience a grotesque and overbearing world through the eyes of a child gives you a sense of helplessness and yet a determination to keep going. The Story of the game is never fully revealed and even at the very end, you are left with more questions than answers. How the events in Six’s story and the Kid’s story eventually entwine will certainly leave you questioning the protagonists’ motives.
I have wanted to play this game for a while and I was not disappointed. Though the controls can be a bit clunky, the music and gameplay do make up for it. Little Nightmares: Complete Edition is not a typical jump scare game or a bloody gore fest but there are some dark, creepy and unsettling moments that may make you queasy. The gameplay is challenging but there are guides and walkthroughs available online that can lend a hand if and when you get stuck. With a price point of $29.99/€35.99 It is certainly cheaper to pick it up in the US or at the very least, pick up a physical version. I personally paid for my physical copy of the game and there is about 8 hours of play time if you don’t know what you’re doing. After a few playthroughs, you will surely be able to do it quicker and that includes both stories. That certainly doesn’t seem like a lot in regards to other games on the market but I will certainly be playing through the game again.
The Verdict: 8/10
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