Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (5ish hours) and report back to you, the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Little Nightmares
The greatest horror in Little Nightmares on the Switch is not one of the shady denizens of this strange and twisted world, intent on eating the tiny child you control, but the fact that you might fail and have to face the agonising loading times. The issue is compounded by gameplay design that likes to trick you into a false sense of security before some creature grabs you and gobbles you up – cue the loading screen of Hell.
Little Nightmares initially impresses, presenting a dark, brooding world, with graphics that contain enough chalky atmosphere to evoke the scariest picture books you read as a child. There is a sense of physics too, with water sizzling your lighter (an essential piece of equipment for finding your way and lighting checkpoints) and objects that can be picked up, moved and even thrown. The world design paints rooms, dingy dungeons and crawl spaces as far larger than life, gigantic against the tiny stature of the child you control, huge even for normal humans, of which none seem to exist in this ogre-filled universe.
Gameplay has you wandering through rooms, solving simple traversal problems and, on occasion, working out how to avoid and/or beat a handful of nasty monsters that will chase you at the slightest glimpse or sound (in one sequence, sticking to carpeted floor becomes essential in getting past a pursuer).
The main problem is that while the individual elements feel fine during sedate exploration and experimentation, things quickly become clunky and frustrating when pressure is applied. You become unsure of where exactly you’re meant to go and what exactly you can do – can you slide under things while running? Is that even climbable? Where am I meant to go now? Bam – dead – cue loading screen of Hell.
This happens again and again, creating awful loops of trial and error. I can only think that the decision to go for atmosphere over interactive clarity was the wrong one for the developers, as I almost gave up playing halfway through – and the game is only a few hours long!
To sweeten the Switch deal slightly, you also get the DLC chapters, which put you in the small shoes of another child who makes his way through the locations of the game, witnessing moments from a slightly different perspective.
There’s not a particularly strong narrative here, everything is presented without words or explanation and you have little choice throughout the game – it’s extremely linear. There are some collectables in the form of hidden statues you can find and break, but I certainly won’t be losing sleep over them. All said, while I appreciated what the game was trying to do, I only persisted in order to review it. Obscure sequences got in the way of the narrative and those loading times made everything more horrifying than intended.
It is said that Dylan Burns has no shadow, or if he does that it portents a shifting of the elder signs that govern the floating curses of the universe, gathering their power and directing ill intent and misfortune to all game developers that enact post-release patches. Consequently, Dylan’s shadow curse finds itself working overtime, permanently engaged, thus the propagation of legend. When not guiding the swirling forces of evil, Dylan enjoys writing (evil) fiction, taking menacing walks, and lurking behind bus stops with a general demeanour that suggests malevolence.