Little Nightmares is a horror/puzzle/platformer game by Tarsier Studios. It’s one of those sorts of games that doesn’t have dialogue, so the story is yours to piece together. Does it hold up? I think so, yes, let’s discuss it.
So Little Nightmares stars you, Six, a little girl who’s only objective is to escape the Maw, a ship out at sea with many guests and captives aboard. Throughout your journey you’ll have to get past the main enemies the Janitor, the Twin Chefs, and the ghostly woman. All three have unique environments in their own respective chapters and they all have different, very unique ways of catching you and creeping you out. The horror element comes in through aesthetic and character design. These foes are so extremely creepy, with the Janitor using his unnaturally long arms, slow walk, and predatory grunts and snarls, the Chefs with their heavy breathing along with their preparation of meals that include excellent sound design that makes me feel like I’m listening to some kind of horrific ASMR. Then there’s the woman who haunts Six’s dreams, who seems to be taking a lead role on this horrific vessel. There are very few jumpscares in this game, so it’s all atmospheric which I actually prefer to all the games that are you just wandering around waiting for something to jump in your face. The story is up to you to decipher, since there’s no dialogue, it’s all told through gameplay.
The gameplay here is similar to games like Limbo or Inside, you run to the right, move objects, jump from platform to platform, and figure out physics and platforming puzzles while also trying not to get caught. Unlike Limbo and Inside though, Little Nightmares is on a 3D plane, which I think can be to its detriment at times. The game has a forced 2D perspective where you can’t rotate the camera to gauge jumps or balance better and occasionally it can make you fall to your death. This happened to me quite a few times in the game. I’d have preferred that the game forced you on a 2D plane when necessary so you’re not flopping around to your death as often as I was.
Overall I think this game is great. The fear I felt running away from these monsters that towered over me felt real as I played a terrifying game of hide and seek with them. While having barely anything that you could call jumpscares, this game still made me more tense than a lot of other games in the horror genre which I believe is the best way to do horror, through atmosphere and aesthetic. With this direction, I wasn’t in fear of the next jumpscare, the enemies actually made me afraid of them walking too close to where I was hiding and made me think twice about whether or not I should run for the next room. It makes you actually fear getting caught. This game is running at $20 and for that, I got about 5 hours of playtime before I finished it. While I think it was worth it due to how well the game paces those 5 hours, I can imagine it being an issue for some. If any of this sounds like your kind of thing I strongly urge you to check it out.