Little Nightmares is easily the scariest game I’ve played all year. Made by Tarsier Studios, you play as Six, a little girl desperately trying to escape the house of horrors that is the Maw, while evading capture at the hands of the creatures who run it. At its core, Little Nightmares is a puzzle solving platformer, however its unique design and dark themes bring you into a twisted world of horror.
Little Nightmares doesn’t make use of any jumpscares, and to be honest, it doesn’t need to. As such a small character, you have no choice but to hide or to run, meaning that the scariest moments come from hiding and waiting; the moments where you’re holding your breath to see if you’ll be found. It was this approach to horror that kept me consistently tense throughout the game. Suspense is built even in the quiet moments, and you soon come to realise that for Six, no place is truly safe. I found myself waiting for the moments in the vents between rooms so I could have a moment to relax before moving on to the next horrific puzzle or chase. But no sooner had I let my guard down, than two long arms came into the vents, snatching wildly for Six. Because of this, there are no moments where the pressure of being found doesn’t hang over you.
As such a small character, you have no choice but to hide or to run, meaning that the scariest moments come from hiding and waiting
The design of the game itself contributes to the overall atmosphere of creepiness. While not made exclusively with a dark colour palette like many other horror games, Little Nightmares makes full use of the balance between light and dark, using the dark corners of the room to hide either Six or some unpleasant surprise. In those moments of darkness, you use Six’s lighter to reveal the room yourself, which creates a small flickering light reminiscent of ghost stories around a campfire.
However it is the character design in Little Nightmares that is the foundation of the horror that you will experience. Six encounters a variety of nightmare inducing creatures, each of which has their own unsettling quirks and particular sense of accompanying dread. The Janitor, with his long reaching arms and grinding teeth, the Chefs with their heavy breathing and meat cleavers, or the Lady with her blank face and shadowy appearance. Each is perfectly designed to leave you thoroughly unsettled.
While not made exclusively with a dark colour palette like many other horror games, Little Nightmares makes full use of the balance between light and dark
Little Nightmares does not hold your hand through its storytelling, there is no real dialogue, as the game is smart enough to show you the story rather than guide you through it. There is also very little help from tutorials. From the beginning there are next to no instructions on the controls, a tip frustratingly popping up perhaps an hour after you first needed it. And while the puzzles and chases are complex enough to challenge you, the checkpoint system is a little hit and miss, sometimes taking you much farther back after a failed attempt than is necessary.
Despite these slight frustrations, Little Nightmares is the most imaginative horror platformer that I’ve encountered in a long time. If you’re looking for something creepy to play this Halloween, Little Nightmares will take you to the disturbing depths of the Maw and set your heart pounding with its monstrous game of hide and seek.