The success of a particular game is likely to spawn plenty of other, similar games that attempt to do the same thing while putting their own twists on a now-proven formula. Jonathan Blow’s Braid did well, for example, and helped kick off an era of me-too puzzle platformers from indie developers hungry for a piece of the pie. One of those games was Limbo, which combined puzzling and platforming with a grim and dark design.
This would later spawn Inside, a highly similar title from the same team that released to critical acclaim last year, and now we’ve got Little Nightmares, another take on the horror puzzle platformer concept that does its subgenre proud.
Our heroine, Six, wakes up in what appears to be a creaky and cavernous old ship, alone and seemingly with no idea of how she got there. A little girl in a raincoat certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of passenger who’d be on board this particular vessel, after all. It doesn’t take long for Six to discover that the vessel, the Maw, is a sort of pleasure palace for distorted humanoid creatures who have less than pleasant plans for her and the other children. Naturally, this means Six needs to find a way to escape before she succumbs to the ship’s dangers, her captors or her own ravenous hunger.
In practice, Little Nightmares plays a little bit like a set of LittleBigPlanet levels or, perhaps more accurately, like Limbo. The game’s all about platforming and avoiding any nasties that set their eyes on Six. Often you’ll need to push objects around to make staircases or block off an enemy’s sight so you can sneak by. It’s a fairly straightforward experience and much of the game lies in its presentation rather than its gameplay.
Said presentation is fantastic, for what that’s worth. Little Nightmares is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s work, with the grim aesthetic of Corpse Bride springing to mind as I played. The game’s environments, creatures and animations alike are all lovingly rendered; the attention to detail that’s present in every aspect of Little Nightmares makes it unsurprising that the game only runs for around five hours or so. It’s a feast for the eyes, though there’s often so much going on in each area that it can interfere with gameplay; Six’s ability to climb around on things is central to progress, and it can be difficult to determine exactly what can be climbed on or pushed around.
Those moments of annoyance aside, Little Nightmares is a fantastic experience that’s worth playing for the relatively low price that’s being asked for it. If you’ve finished Limbo and Inside and would like to try another game along those lines, you could certainly do much worse than Little Nightmares. One final point – despite the game’s look and feel, the plot goes in some pretty dark and interesting directions, and it’s worth checking out solely to see them unfold for yourself.