Little Nightmares (2017, PC)

By Kugle / May 12, 2017

I have very mixed feelings with Little Nightmares, I have a lot to say and need somewhere to begin.
   Let me start with the positives...

   The first thing anyone will notice is the art style and the design of the world and characters. The game is beautiful, creepy, dark, gross and frightening when it's trying to be and it does it all very, very well. I love how unique the game looks as well. It's like Limbo but with more color, 3D depth and better art direction. I often found my eyes wandering around my screen just taking in the details of the world and thinking to myself about what I saw. Every room managed to be interesting.
   The game sounds brilliant as well, from hearing echoing screams and loud creaking metal in the grand, mysterious and very dark environment around you to the cringe-inducing fleshy whacks of a meat cleaver pounding some unidentifiable hunk of flesh above your tiny head, it's all great. I probably sat and listened to The Lady's singing for a few minutes before getting back to the game just because it was the most out of place, calming and enjoyable noise in the entire game.
   All three (four if you count the guests) of the enemies in this game have their own distinct and horrifying personality, body, voice and work- and living-areas. I think The Lair was my favorite area because it's the longest, most varied and interesting. I wonder what kind of stuff that thing keeps in all those trunks... and all those books...
   I think the game's platforming is straightforward and enjoyable throughout and the weight and speed of your character match perfectly. You move and fall fast enough to really feel like you are moving or falling from a height that will snap your tiny twig legs.
   Now for the negatives...
   While the character's movement and how the controls feel are good, collision with geometry and ledges isn't as good as it could be. You cannot slide around corners. This might not sound like a big deal but when you are running from death it can be very frustrating. I died several times because I had to determine if this tiny yellow raincoat on stick legs would be able to slide or fit through this really tiny gap while being chased with very little to almost no room for error only to end up bumping a corner with my arm and stopping completely, thus having to move down and crouch then move very slowly.
   This problem is made even worse due to the choice of how the camera operates. You are basically watching your character move through a series of rooms from a third-person perspective through an invisible wall as a sort of window to the action. What this means for chase sequences is you have to judge going around objects, geometry and going through small gaps from the equivalent of the other side of the room. Combine this with having to match up teeny tiny hands with moving objects in an often dark 3D environment and you end up with many frustrating deaths.
   Another issue that makes this frustration worse is sometimes in movement or time-sensitive situations the environment doesn't give feedback to you in a short enough period of time, meaning I frequently got stuck and thought the correct solution wasn't right and then had to fumble around confusedly until I realized I was right all along. This ruined the game's pacing for me.
   The story isn't really impressive. Beyond the basic idea of getting out of this place that you know nothing about and the visual information you get throughout the game... there isn't really any explanation for anything at all. I have no idea why the opening character you see when you start the game in your little nightmare's dream is an ending boss with no name, explanation, face or backstory.

   Something that I think was what little storytelling the game had was periodically you would have to stop playing to witness your character going through some apparently life-threatening, gut-wrenchingly painful hunger that comes on hard and out of nowhere. If it wasn't for the really convenient food, and later on... "food", placed literally a room away whenever this happens, I think these fleshy sticks with a raincoat on would have died before seeing that beautiful sun again... or maybe for the first time... again nothing is explained.
   With what little there is to the story, I have to admit the ending is cool and I liked it quite a bit. I won't spoil it but it was a sudden, unexplained shift in character and power for little miss raincoat, it was awesome! That was until the after credits scene... Again I won't spoil it but... it doesn't make much sense I think and considering the hunger mentioned earlier... It doesn't look good for her.
   On top of all this I managed to also have some collision problems with things I was supposed to be able to climb under and got caught for it as well as just plain ole getting stuck and having to restart.
   A few times where I got stuck it was just me being a fuckwit but others it was genuinely confusing. Sometimes the camera would make it hard to see what I was doing, or it would confuse me by showing me something after climbing up some ledges. Since the camera always moves when you enter a new room I would assume it moving meant I was able to keep moving that way, but it was not the case.
   The first enemy confused me a lot when trying to figure out his behavior. He operates on hearing but at first I couldn't tell how to avoid him by just staying away or moving on different things to keep quiet, because he would sniff at the air when he was suspicious of me and him being sensitive to sound wasn't implied or shown in any way before encountering him for the first time. He is still my favorite of the three enemies though.
   The game is also disappointingly easy when it's not confusing or too dark to see what you're doing from the other side of the room. Everything is so obvious and simple, none of the enemies felt threatening or fun to get around sometimes. You can avoid them like it's nothing once you know what to do, which makes me wish even more there was more story in the game. The game isn't challenging at all beyond earlier gripes with camera and collision.
   The last two enemies get less time than the first, with the third being surprisingly short. You barely get any play out of her... Aside from the behavior they have when aware of you, the AI is just a dog on a leash who is freed by a sound or sight trigger you create. Basic AF.
   All of this design culminates into a large amount of "Not Fun" for me, especially for twenty dollars. With practically no story, kind of clunky mechanics and non-challenging enemies, I just can't recommend this game at its current price. It feels a lot more like it's worth ten dollars or less.
   If you can get past the lack of story and sometimes frustrating mechanics then you will enjoy the sights, sounds and characters this game has to offer a ton. I almost feel like this idea is held back by being a videogame and should have been a movie instead! There's so much about the setting and the characters I want to know but the game's design doesn't leave room for it or doesn't require it to sell.
   In summary, the game is great visually, has great sound design and I'm always going to remember the monsters (people?) but I sighed and got annoyed far too much for 20 dollars.