Little Nightmares, developed and published by Bandai Namco, is due to be released on Steam April 28th, 2017. We got some hands on play time at London EGX Rezzed for this ‘whimsical tale of Six and the Maw’
Little Nightmares is an atmospheric puzzle plat-form game with a warm heart but a very dark humour. You play as Six, a child in a dream/nightmare like scenario set in the Maw. The Maw is likened to an over sized doll house and as you work your way through the puzzles in each room you must also avoid the monsters within. We only had a glimpse of the earlier levels where the puzzles are more entertaining than challenging. An example was where you had to maneuver ham hocks over a trap door before returning to an earlier room. Then you must open the door with a latch and grind the hocks into link sausages for you to use as a swing rope into the next room.
There are simpler but suitably nerve wrecking hide and seek phases as well, tasking you with hiding under tables or behind boxes to avoid the chef’s gaze. If they catch a sight of you they move their grotesque over sized bodies at an alarming pace to catch you. Running away without a head start isn’t an option so you must dive into cover and avoid their groping hands before finding another way around them. What makes Little Nightmares so engaging is the beautiful but foreboding artwork and lore that the developers at Tarsier Studio have created. With a spooky sound track and the occasional very well timed jump scares, this little game has both a dark and light side. On one occasion we witnessed another player drop their controller and almost fall off their stool as a groping hand came from nowhere in an attempt to grab Six when it appeared they were safe.
The controller works perfectly for this kind of game as you jump, push and pull, with other movements as well. The team at Tarsier Studio have also done a great job of connecting you with your character by implementing a no toggle control mechanism. If you let go of a button that you pressed to grab a ledge you will let go. As you stop rotating the controller stick Six also stops winding a handle in game. You weave around under and over furniture with precision but not at a great pace, which appears to be by design.
The apparent lack of a dodge or sprint button ramps up the tension and focuses your mind on planning and stealth tactics rather than run and jump game play. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t occasions when you need to get a shift on. In one room, while moving towards a bookcase we needed to climb, we disturbed a Nome. This not only gave us a fright, but it knocked over a vase which caught the attention of the chef who promptly came sprinting over to get us. We made it to the top of the book case and into a vent just in time, but it was close and it hard our heart pumping! The graphics work beautifully as well, allowing great precision as well as a challenge with the depth of view as you move deeper into a scene.
Bandai Namco have commissioned a set of comics to increase the lore around the title which so far seems to be well anticipated, we hope that this little diamond has the depth of gameplay and story that the initial reveal deserves.