Little Nightmares Preview – Nightmare Fuel (PS4)

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As part of Bandai Namco’s expanding reach in Asia (outside of Japan), the publisher held a product conference event in Singapore this past week, and PlayStation LifeStyle was invited.

At the event, numerous unreleased games were available for preview for the gaming media. One of these said games is Tarsier Studios’ (LittleBigPlanet 3, Tearaway Unfolded) Little Nightmares; a puzzle-platformer horror game that has a unique art style and seems to have the same “feel” as that of Playdead’s Inside and even Limbo — at least from the brief time I had with it.

Not Just a Dream

In Little Nightmares, the player plays as a nine-year old girl named Six, who was kidnapped from her home to work in The Maw, which is a resort that has “unique” individuals as guests. On the level that was demoed, Six was already free from her employers, and had to navigate the environment to (presumably) get out alive and well.

During the short demo, which I assume is from an early part of the game due to the tutorials, you had the ability to push/pull objects, hang from ledges, climb, use a lighter for illuminating dark areas, assume a sneaking position and run. These are all done by just one button presses, and don’t involve any finger gymnastics. Want to open your lighter? Just click on R3. Want to run? Just press square and go. Mind, later levels could involve more complicated controls, but from what I played, it’s pretty tight and straightforward, which is something you need when it comes to platformers.

On Your Six

The first minute of the demo has Six (and the player) being shown the ropes. You were given hints on which ledges, perches and items were interact-able, and an out-of-reach door handle serves as the first puzzle and a good introduction of sorts to Little Nightmares.

After that, though, the real threat begins and you’re immediately shoved into another puzzle where you have to escape the kitchen area that’s manned by a big, blob-y man-baby chef. Using stealth is key and you can hide from the chef under drawers and tables. While you can run, it will make a lot of sound that will alert the chef to your location. Once he catches you, it’s game over and you have to start the level again. I failed a few times due to me just running to the far end, or accidentally running past the oven cover and nudging it snap shut, which alerted the chef. At the end of this particular tense encounter, there’s a shelf that you can climb up and a small hole to pass through to the other room. Dropping down reveals that the door which leads to the kitchen is barricaded and guards you from the chef’s repeated attempts to get in.

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Once past this sinister cook, you’re then greeted by yet another puzzle, but this requires a little bit more thought and has you navigating two areas to get the right amount of sausage (it’s not as weird as it sounds when you see the puzzle) to swing through an opening to get to the next level.

Unfortunately, this is as far as you can go in the demo and once you pass through this little hole, the demo ends with a big splash screen revealing Little Nightmares’ worldwide release date (April 28, 2017).

Inside Out

While Little Nightmares won’t push the PlayStation 4’s graphical capabilities to its fullest, its art direction is definitely a step in the right path, and proves that a good art style trumps all when it comes to visuals. Not to say Little Nightmares looks bad, as it doesn’t, but it’s clear Tarsier Studios focused more on the cartoon-y art style they wanted instead of relying on realism or pushing as many polygons as they can on-screen. It’s a delight to watch and the motion capture is on-par, too.

From the aforementioned chef to how objects look and even Six herself, Little Nightmares oozes personality and for some reason, reminded me of Inside’s simple but functional style. Both games seemed to rely on shadows and in-game lighting as part of its gameplay mechanics, and both titles relied more on quick wits than fast trigger fingers. There was no UI (user interface) to speak of as far as I can tell, and everything you need to do is a button touch away — again, the same as Inside.

Big Dreams

Even without the comparison to Inside, Tarsier Studios seems to be hitting all the right beats with Little Nightmares based on what I played so far. Its art style is unique enough to stand out, the controls are intuitive enough that you can pick up and play it in seconds, and its premise is engaging enough that you’ll want to know where Six is headed and how her adventure ends.

It’s not even just me that seems to be smitten, as other games media people who attended the event also shared the same sentiment that Little Nightmares is a pleasant surprise that should be on your radar if you like puzzle-adventure games, or just titles that differ from the countless shooters or jump-in-face horror games out now.

Little Nightmares is due out this April 27, 2017 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. Stay tuned to our review set to hit the site soon before release.

Travel and accommodations for the press event provided by Bandai Namco. Previewed on PS4