Little Nightmares (with The Depths)
Little Nightmares (with The Depths)
Overall, I’m glad I played and would recommend Little Nightmares (including The Depths) for teachable old dogs and those who have good hand-eye coordination and don’t buckle under pressure
Posted: 07/21/17 | Category: Review | Developer: Tarsier Studios | Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment | Platform: Xbox one, Playstation 4, Windows

Genre: Platform Adventure
Release date: April 27, 2017 (original game); July 6, 2017 (DLC The Depths)

Old Dogs and New Tricks  
 

Prior to RIME, I had never played a game with platform mechanics. In truth, I have avoided them since the day my children discovered Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog and I was unable to keep up with them. In a pure act of hubris, I decided that my success with scaling walls and jumping chasms in RIME qualified me for playing Little Nightmares.

After about 10 minutes, I realized that I was not going to be able to play this game with a keyboard and mouse. Sigh... Out came the Steam Controller that has been stored in a bottom drawer and gathering dust. I figured out the functions for each button, created a cheat sheet and was ready to go! I was moving with ease and congratulating myself on how an old dog really can learn new tricks.

Then I hit the first scenario that required a Ph.D. in physics AND graduate-level skills in choreography. Suddenly, I’m not so smug as I spend the next 2 hours (I am not making this up!) trying to climb a wall of crates, jump on and off a swinging platform, flip a switch, and then leap to a platform that is rapidly moving out of reach. Each time I fall to my death, the game restores me to a much earlier position, forcing me to restart this lengthy sequence over and over (and over and over). I begin to harbor a major resentment against Tarsier Studios for not being a bit more considerate of the novice.

 In desperation, I go to YouTube and watch my favorite “professional” gamer, John Wolfe. He executes this scenario without even slowing down which reinforces my sense that I am in way over my head. Giving up is not an option so my adventure continues at a snail’s pace. Run, climb, jump, die.  Run, climb, fall, die again.  Run, climb, jump, hit the wrong button, die yet again…

The Stuff of Nightmares  
 

Little Nightmares is a scrolling, 3D platform adventure that begins when a small girl wakes in a dark, strange place.  Clothed in a yellow jacket and hat and armed with only a lighter, you move her off into the darkness to explore and escape. The challenge is two-fold: (1) to find a way out and (2) to survive. Overall, the game is an exercise in problem-solving, stealth, timing and coordination.  For those less focused on simply staying alive, there are “collectibles” such as lanterns to light, gnomes to hug and pottery to smash.  You creep through ductwork and drainpipes, climb grates and bookshelves, locate keys and open doors. Most are physical puzzles…how do you open a door with a latch you can’t reach? Swing from something? Jump from a higher place? Move objects to climb up on? These require keen observation and creative thinking and I made slow but steady progress.

In the true spirit of nightmares, there are monsters and things that go bump in the dark. This added a new layer of complexity that involved running for my life, taking cover and sneaking around to evade capture. I struggled with these segments of the game, as my less-than-professional platform skills resulted in the girl being routinely grabbed or eaten.

Finally, there are areas in which escape is only possible if you have the coordination and timing of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. At the end of the 3rd Chapter, I hit the proverbial wall. While being chased by TWO beastly cooks coming at me from different sides, I needed to leap to the floor, run at top speed, slide under a table, run some more, scale two boxes and jump to catch a moving hook as it passed over my head. If your timing is off by a fraction of a second, you get to try again. If you get tired and exit the game, you restart earlier in the chapter and have the added insult of re-running a previous gauntlet involving two cooks, a lever and the same moving hook. I lost count of my failed attempts. At last, with perfect execution, I caught the hook and was so surprised at my own success that I let go of the “grip” button and fell to my death. ARGH…

Eventually, I did make it to the final chapter which involves an inordinate amount of running for your life and playing trapeze artist while large, creepy people attempt to eat you. Speaking of food, there are several points in the game where the girl gets hungry and must feed. Initially, this is innocuous enough as she snacks on leftovers and rats. Later in the game, her hunger takes a horrific turn and I realized that I would not want to encounter this child in a dark alley. At last, I came to the final showdown and the plot took an unexpected twist that I did not see coming. Wow!  If I had to describe this game in one word it would be “INTENSE!”

Help! I Need Saving…  
 

Little Nightmares is very impressive in terms of detailed 3D graphics and a sound track that kept my adrenaline at high levels and my heart pounding throughout the entire adventure. I never really relaxed because every small success meant that I was one step closer to the next deadly encounter.  The fact that it was incredibly difficult for me is not a reflection of the game itself. I watched the experts on YouTube blow through the entire story in a few hours and then comment that it was a “somewhat short adventure.” Hmm…

My only real complaint is that it felt like a long distance between save points. In most cases, you are reincarnated close to where you die at what is a “temporary” save point. However, if you exit the game and come back later, you may find yourself somewhere else entirely. Despite the save icon (a white eye) appearing often, the location of the last “persistent” save point that controls where you restart play was never obvious. Thus, exiting the game felt like Russian Roulette. How lucky did I feel?

In the end, this old dog did learn new tricks. While practice did not make perfect, my platform skills improved and I am now hooked on using a game controller. For me, playing Little Nightmares was like childbirth…painful when you are going through it, but afterwards, selective amnesia sets in and you think “that wasn’t so bad…maybe I’ll do it again!" So, in the spirit of true masochism, I decided that one nightmare was not enough.

Taking the Plunge  
 

For those who want to spend additional time in the world of Little Nightmares, an new chapter was just released. The Depths takes place in the same environment as the main game but begins when a small boy wakes and begins his own walkabout in the dark. Initially, you pass through the same rooms that you traversed in earlier chapters. You then descend into a watery area that is inhabited by large leeches and unseen horrors that rise from the depths. Armed with only a flashlight, most of the challenge of The Depths is to outrun (or outswim) threats. In some ways, this chapter is even more stressful than the original game. Instead of large monsters in hot pursuit, the boy must cross watery areas knowing he is likely to be pulled under by something terrible. In addition to swimming and wading, this chapter requires the same skill set as the original game – perfectly coordinated and timed running, jumping, swinging and climbing. For those with platformer skills, The Depths is a fairly short journey that ends suddenly, without warning. Rumor has it that more chapters will be forthcoming from Tarsier Studios.

To Play or Not to Play  
 

For the traditional adventurer, Little Nightmares and The Depths are serious departures from the quiet world of point-and-click. The experience is engaging, addictive, and required tenacity and endurance on my part. My whole body became one with the controller as I leaned forward to jump and tensed to land. I found myself coaching the main character (“faster…don’t miss this jump…you can do this…”) and yelling at the monsters (“don’t go there…you are NOT going to eat me this time…Nooooo…”).

Overall, I’m glad I played and would recommend Little Nightmares (including The Depths) for teachable old dogs and those who have good hand-eye coordination and don’t buckle under pressure. I actually found myself thinking out loud, “That game wasn’t so bad…I should play the next chapter!”

Grade: B+
 
Detailed 3D world with a sound track that will bring back every childhood nightmare you ever had
+ Game maintains a constant sense of fear and tension
Stealth factor, combined with puzzles, keeps game from being more interesting than just “running for your life”
 
Prepare to do a bit of replay since save points are not clearly indicated 
- Those not proficient in platform mechanics may find the challenges overwhelming at times
- For the skilled gamer, the price point may be a bit steep for the length of this adventure

 

 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

 

System Requirements

MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 7, 64-bit
Processor: Intel CPU Core i3
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GTX 460
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 10 GB available space
Additional Notes: SSE4.2 required 
 
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