Little Nightmares (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 03.05.2017

Review for Little Nightmares on Xbox One

Cinematic or narrative driven platforming adventure games have been slowly on the rise since Ico showed everyone how it's done. Before it, games like Another World, Heart of Darkness and Abe's Odyssey and its sequel were the exemplary standards for these kinds of story-platformers. Today, the likes of Limbo and Inside are the go-to games that everyone name drops when anyone has an itch for narrative platforming with one-hit deaths. Ico and its successors were some of the few games that ever pushed the genre into the third dimension... Until Little Nightmares came along, that is.

It would be easy to assume that Little Nightmares is another 2D platformer in the same vein as Limbo and Inside. All these games share a few things in common, like how they are about a small child in a darkly whimsical world and a story told purely with visuals and no speaking whatsoever. Little Nightmares stands out from the competition and ditches standard 2.5D and is a full on 3D platformer with a fixed camera angle. The added depth and control gives this game much more playability than the genre would suggest, since these kinds of games are usually reliant on interacting with the environment, and being in only two dimensions, that would limit interactions quite a bit. Since Little Nightmares fully embraces a wide range of axis to explore, the developers can make traversing the areas as wild and as vivid as the deranged setting.

Little Nightmares is a story about a hungry diminutive child named Six, who lives in some kind of prison, and how she escapes. There are other story details, but it is all expressed visually and often times kept vague since the only information available is what is seen on screen. There are no notes to read, no audio diaries, there isn't even comical text written in any language anywhere. It is a story by implication, and while this game won't make much of the story overtly clear, there are just enough subtle clues to make us consider the visuals on a deeper level.

Screenshot for Little Nightmares on Xbox One

There are so many concepts that are never explained, like the name of the playable character and even the name of the setting is never once mentioned, and the only way to learn this is to either read the achievement descriptions or read up on the game's official website. While it is very admirable that the developers respect the intelligence of the users so much for keeping everything visual in the game, it begs the question, why bother having official names or explanations of anything at all if they won't be in the core game?

Everything seen is also extremely well designed and has a somewhat dark, industrial and twisted fairy tale vibe to it. The bright yellow raincoat that Six wears is more than just for protection from the weather; it guarantees that everyone will be able to see her and know exactly where she is so she won't get lost in the rich environments.

During the course of the adventure she will encounter three major antagonists: the long armed man with a peeled face, twin chefs who are probably feminists, and the geisha. The first two antagonists get more screen time and have some off as bigger threats, while the geisha sadly is underutilized and is only encountered during the final moments. The long armed man seems to have gotten the most attention and is by far the most memorable of the antagonists, what with his insect-like twitching mouth movements and wheezy breath that sounds very wet. Since he has no eyes, encounters with him mean that he is sensitive to sound and footsteps, and the puzzle is traversing without making sound. The chefs are nothing particularly interesting mechanically. The only thing that makes them distinct is that there is two of them.

Screenshot for Little Nightmares on Xbox One

Little Nightmares is a simple game with CGI movie quality visuals. The level of detail in the animation is painstakingly depicted. From the way Six covers her lighter as she runs to prevent it from getting extinguished to the extremely creepy mouth movements of the long armed man, the developers put a lot of care and character in this game. Even the sound design is worthy of note since so much of this experience is a true tour de force on all the senses. The overall presentation is extremely polished and atmosphere is so dense, it definitely seems like no expense was spared. The lighting is all real time and dynamic, which becomes even more impressive because of Six's lighter, which can illuminate anything and everything. There is an overarching theme of "hunger" that runs through the entire play time of the game, and the designers were very deliberate with many of the visuals in order to properly reflect this. Lots of meat, too; the meat rendered in Little Nightmares is some of the best looking meat ever.

In many ways, Little Nightmares is another example of the video game medium using its strengths to tell a story. It is not perfect by any means, but such a simple story couldn't have been told in a more interesting way. It is one of the few games that truly feels cinematic, yet never takes control away for a cutscene or succumbs to a fraudulent gameplay cutscene. Once the game begins, control is never taken away until the credits roll. It is because of the carefully designed fixed camera perspectives that Little Nightmares manages to be a real cinematic game.

Screenshot for Little Nightmares on Xbox One

Anybody who loved games like Limbo or Inside is going to adore Little Nightmares. It can be beaten in a few hours, but anyone interested in games like this are going to expect that. Aesthetically, Little Nightmares has similarities to Ico and Abe's Odyssey, so expect large and oppressive industrial settings and some elements of fantasy. The parts that some people may not be satisfied with would likely be just how fast the final moments occur and that the final antagonist just was underutilized, which is disappointing because she really was unsettling.

There is also not much content past the initial playthrough. Sadly, Little Nightmares is a one and done kind of situation. The core game already was fairly easy, and some kind of harder modes would have been welcomed. The only reason to replay it is because the game itself is actually pretty fun to play thanks to well-designed controls. It is worth noting there was quite a bit of chop while playing on Xbox One. This game has some pretty nasty frame drops at times when there is an antagonist roaming around, and sometime collision is iffy.

Screenshot for Little Nightmares on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Little Nightmares goes for about $19.99 (digital) and for that much the game is pretty much worth it. Once the game begins, it is easy to be hooked and enthralled all the way to its conclusion. From an artistic and design standpoint, it is one of the most creative looking games around, and pulls off the whole demented doll house look perfectly. On Xbox One it may not be the smoothest running game, but it is still perfectly playable. Not a long or challenging game by any means, but Little Nightmares does manage to make a lasting impression.

Developer

Tarsier Studios

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
K-Pop Korner - The Best of Korean Music
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Adam Riley, Azuardo, hinchjoie, Ofisil

There are 4 members online at the moment.