Ordinarily, I wouldn’t consider a game of hide and seek to be particularly terrifying. After all, it’s a pretty simple game pretty much everyone played as children that normally has no consequences whatsoever.
But apparently, that all goes out the window when I’m playing a game as a little child hiding under a bed as long arms snake through an open door to try to grab me. Because I kid you all not, I spent a lot of that experience praying I was just out of reach of those grabbing hands because I knew something terrible was going to happen to me if those fingers even so much as brushed up against the yellow raincoat the character I was playing as was wearing.
This largely made up the majority of the experience I had playing the fifth game in my lineup of eight horror games this year: Little Nightmares.
If there’s one horror game my community has wanted me to play for a very long time now, that honor would probably fall to this one. In fact, during our fundraising, Little Nightmares was the game that my community consistently grew the wedge of on our Wheel of Horror. And yet, RNG conspired against it time and time again.
I think they all were a bit excited when someone donated enough money to get me to actually play it and all the other games I’ve played or will be playing in this lineup.
However, I was a little hesitant about this one at first.
For one thing, the character we play in this game is a child. We play a tiny child in a yellow raincoat chased by various things that presumably want to eat her.
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. I said, “eat.”
I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, though.
Not only that, but when I started the game, I quickly realized this was actually a platformer of sorts. In fact, most consider Little Nightmares to be a 2.5D puzzle-platformer, so I was really hesitant about the title at first.
Despite one of the first video games I ever played being a platformer, I ordinarily wouldn’t seek one out to play. This is largely for the same reason I don’t like jumping puzzles in games. To me, failing repeatedly at one point and needing to repeat the same motions over and over again while continuing to fail takes a lot of the fun out of a game for me. Too many failures often result in me getting frustrated.
Imagine my surprise when I didn’t experience that at all with Little Nightmares. Despite having to repeat certain sections a few times due to being caught, I think I only experienced frustration with the process a grand total of once.
And by the time I got to the end of the game, I actually found myself wishing Little Nightmares was longer than the few hours we got.
This was especially strange to me since Little Nightmares absolutely falls under the horror category, and as I’ve mentioned several times in the past, I get scared very easily. Usually, wanting more of a horrific thing isn’t something I want, but I definitely wanted it here.
While the things we encounter are absolutely horrific, the game has no jump scares to speak of. The horror is confined to the things we see naturally in the world the character experiences. The developers even took inspiration from a few games we played as children (Hide and Seek in particular) and found ways to make them absolutely terrifying.
See, as an example, the mention at the start of this post of hiding under a bed or on a series of bookshelves trying to evade a man with particularly long arms or under a table/in boxes to avoid being spotted by other equally disturbing enemies.
Because the scares were set up this way, I felt like they were a lot more effective here than in some other games where the scares are more jumpscare-y and a bit more predictable.
I think the fact that we might have been playing as such a small character may have helped, too.
Players go through the game playing a small child in a yellow raincoat by the name of Six, or at least this is what promotional material and other reviews tell me is the character’s name. There’s no actual dialogue in the game itself and no narration to indicate who you are or why you are where you are. With none of that in the game, you’re mostly left to draw your own conclusions about the character you’re playing and the world around her.
That world around Six is huge. In fact, it’s so much bigger than the very small character you play. Everything feels so vast and expansive in comparison to Six. Chests of drawers or stacks of books become makeshift ladders for you to climb. Towels or hanging lanterns become makeshift swings to get you from, say, a table into a nearby opening in the wall or across different platforms.
There’s even one moment where you’re climbing up a rope or a chain and the camera zooms out to the point where you’re a barely noticeable spec of yellow in comparison to the size of the characters moving in the background and the immenseness of the structure you’re climbing up.
Visually, Little Nightmares is amazing, a little overwhelming, and grotesque all at once, especially when Six is trying to avoid capture because yes, that’s what she has to do.
Six somehow or other finds herself in a structure called the Maw (again, taken from other reviews and promotional materials; this place is never named in the course of the game), and she has to navigate her way through it as everything gets more and more horrifying.
We soon realize she’s not the only child in this structure. There are others in cages that we’re incapable of helping (or perhaps she simply has no desire to do so), and it didn’t take me long to figure out what happens to the other children, especially after one unfortunate occasion where an enemy managed to grab Six and fling her into an oven.
We had seen wrapped things of what I had presumed was meat on a conveyor belt earlier in the game, and yet it wasn’t until just that moment that I realized those were the bodies of other children. The children were in this structure to be eaten by everyone else.
I really wish I was kidding. I am not.
However, this knowledge only added to the horror of the entire experience. Things had been a bit nerve-wracking up until that point, but this new knowledge cranked the entire experience up to an eleven for me in the best way possible.
Overall, I found Little Nightmares to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience, and I think this is one of the few horror games in the lineup that I might actually play again because I enjoyed the experience of playing it so much. In fact, I’d probably even encourage other people to play it, too.
There have been very few horror games in the five I’ve played so far this year that have earned that honor from me, so in my eyes, that’s just a testament to how good this game actually is.