Little Nightmares is a side scrolling horror game much like that of Limbo or Inside. These types of games seem to have a similar format and even have a theme of using children as the protagonist. Little Nightmares appears to be no different in this format. Although the gameplay is mostly puzzle based, the narrative leaves a lot to interpretation. As a genre, it is one that has done well for itself over the years. But, although these games appear “cute” in nature, they certainly like telling some dark stories. And it makes one wonder, if we are likely to see more and more games like this in the future.
Tiny Protagonist; Big Adventure
Little Nightmares is played from the perspective of a young girl named Six. And, as i mentioned, this is a a growing trend within these games. Now, we can all see why developers choose to use a child as the main character in these horror games. Having a child in danger feels much more terrifying than an adult. If the child gets killed, it is far more horrifying. That being said, Little Nightmares takes this to a whole new level. Six is far smaller than her grotesque adult counter parts. So small in fact, that she can fit into vents and rats are nearly the same size as her. This tiny protagonist, once again, adds to the horror. Once you start being chased by the enemies you have to find somewhere to hide or be eaten.
I like the fact that the devs decided to go down this route. The chase scenes in Inside were never really that daunting. In Little Nightmares, the fear comes from the fact you are so small. The giant lumbering figures, each deformed for whatever reason, make for some heart-pounding moments.
Little Nightmares is a fairly short game averaging at around 3 hours or so. I think one of the reasons it is so short is because of the simplicity of the puzzles. Early on in the game, it feels more puzzle heavy. As you reach the climax it seems to focus more on the running and hiding elements and the narrative. I don’t mind the fact that the game is short but it does feel like it could be longer. But, more to the point, it never tried to make the puzzles overly complex. Sometimes, side scrolling platformers feel too complex for their own good. And, although I agree that puzzles should get harder as they go along, this game showed you don’t need to over-complicate things. By includng a few puzzles here and there, finding keys and the hiding element; it all worked so beautifully together. There was no nonsense with Little Nightmares so I can forgive its shortcomings.
Debating the Narrative
So, something that is common amongst his genre is the narrative. Often, it feels like it leaves a lot open to interpretation. There is rarely any certainty at the end of the game as to what was really going on. Is the child a representation of innocence? And, the horrors they endure throughout represent the innocence lost? For Little Nightmares, it had some interesting concepts throughout. The Lady, who appears towards the end of the game. The grotesque and deformed bulks of supposed humans who wear masks. The escalation of Six’s hunger as she resorts to eating rat food and worse. All of these things seem to be telling us the underlying tale.
I have never been good at interpreting these sorts of things. But, it always fascinates me to see people debate over them. Personally, I just enjoy playing the game and I can cope with a bit of uncertainty towards the end. But, I understand not everyone is the same. Ultimately, I think this is why these games work. Because they are more than just a side scrolling platformer. They offer more to the hungry imaginations of gamers.
I would love to see game developers playing with this genre more. Taking a simple concept and creating something majestic from it. The art styles for these games are often very intriguing and play a part in the story telling too. I truly did enjoy Little Nightmares, just as I enjoyed Limbo and Inside. It would be good to see more like this.