Monday, May 1, 2017

Little Nightmares

While the horror genre is not really my forte, for whatever reason I am still willing to expose myself to things that fall within that genre. Little Nightmares is one such case, as I got attracted to this particular horror title for its art direction and what appeared to be intriguing gameplay. As the release drew closer, I pre-ordered the Six Edition, a special edition of the game that includes a figurine of protagonist Six, stickers, a poster, and the soundtrack, though I did this primarily to guarantee I get a physical copy of the game out of preference. While the game itself did not take very long to complete, I can say that it was a satisfactory horror experience.

A mysterious little girl named Six wakes up in a strange vessel known as the Maw. Armed with only a lighter, Six has to find a way to escape the Maw while also battling hunger. Though this summary is only brief, the story itself is a little deeper than what can be seen on the surface. Since there is no dialogue in the game, these extra story elements come visually in just the right way, giving just enough information to imply to the player what goes on behind the scenes. I should also take this moment to mention that, because there’s no dialogue, the only way you know certain names and terminology (such as Six’s name) is via supplemental material, including the back of the game box.

The lack of dialogue works in the game’s favor, as it is very effective in setting up a horror atmosphere that is largely psychological. This is furthered by the use of some unnerving imagery (especially towards the end) and minimal gore. The soundtrack also sets the tone really well, making good use of ambient music to enhance the feeling that something is not quite right in the Maw. I actually did manage to get a little jumpy within the beginning of the game, though this was less of an explicit jumpscare and more me not expecting something to drop down and go after me; this feeling lessened over time, however I was still very much captured by the overall tone of the game.

There's more to this than meets the eye.

The actual gameplay is largely puzzle-based with some platforming elements, in what could be described as a 2.5D space. The puzzles aren’t exceedingly difficult, since the game gives you just enough of a hint for you to figure things out for yourself, though there are some parts where the solution is not immediately obvious. As mentioned above, Six is equipped with a lighter, which can be used to light up dark areas or light things such as candles and lanterns. Some of these can be easily missed, as there are some small hidden areas in each level that can be obscured by camera angles and other objects. Other miss-able objectives include smashing small statues and hugging Nomes, which are small creatures about the size of Six that can be seen scurrying throughout the Maw.

While the gameplay is generally solid, there are some things that can bog down the experience a little bit. The game does include a checkpoint system, however the checkpoints seem to be lacking a little bit, as sometimes one mistake can cause you to redo a lot of platforming. One particular example is when I had to take a break after reaching a checkpoint, only for me to come back and have to continue from the previous checkpoint for whatever reason. The load times can also be a little lengthy; while not really unbearable, they can go for a few seconds longer than one would like, including when navigating the main menu of all things. The game itself is also a bit on the short side, taking between 2-5 hours to beat in one go, though to be fair it did not launch at full price and I thought it was still worth playing for what it was.

Little Nightmares is a short, yet effective horror title. It doesn’t dip into excessive gore or shock value to get its points across, relying solely on its harmonious combination of atmosphere, visuals and sound design. For what it’s worth, the game is a good example of visual storytelling, the visuals themselves providing just enough info for the player to connect the dots and leave some details to the imagination. For those looking for a good horror game and don’t mind its length, this game is a must-play.

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