Bestowed with a disquieting atmosphere and visual imagination, Little Nightmares makes a terrific first impression. A side-on platform-puzzler in the vein of Playdead’s exceptional Limbo and Inside - with a similarly dark palette - the game casts the player as Six, a nine-year-old girl who must navigate her way from the depths of a titanic ship called The Maw to escape onto the ocean waves. But the more time you spend with Six, guiding her through the clanking and groaning vessel, the more Little Nightmares reveals its shortcomings.
Swedish studio Tarsier first revealed Little Nightmares in 2014 as a game called Hunger, and Six is indeed cursed with a raging appetite which sees her take some unexpected character turns. Suffice to say that she is no sweet summer child, at times exhibiting qualities more in keeping with the game’s array of grotesque antagonists. An empathetic, protective connection with Little Nightmare’s protagonist is no guarantee, then, which strips the game’s scenes of life-or-death hide and seek - and desperate sprints to evade the clutches of lanky armed assailants - of the tension they should be positively dripping with.
This leads to the player caring less about Six’s safety than they might’ve done, had she not been partial to the occasional wicked act. And that, combined with the regular deaths you’ll encounter (another element borrowed from Playdead's copybook), turns the trial-and-error gameplay into something where the stakes don’t feel especially raised.
If Six gets fried, or crushed, or caught, that’s fine - you simply reload the checkpoint, having learned from your mistakes. But here’s where the greatest obstacle you’ll face in finishing the game raises its head. Forget the traps and the terrors of the Maw - it’s the painfully long loading times between deaths that’ll have you hitting the Switch home button for something less frustrating.
If the game snapped you right back to the last checkpoint a few seconds after coming a cropper, Little Nightmares would be much easier to recommend. But with death occurring so regularly - not just because of the things that are actively out to get you, but also some spongey controls, unclear environments and ropey collision detection that sees Six stick herself to walls or stumble on the floorboards when you least need her to - these lengthy waits to get back to the Maw become bothersome in the extreme.
Checkpointing itself is fairly generous, with usually only a handful of potential pitfalls between one respawn area and the next, but repeating the same short sequences several times robs them of their potency, and the Maw’s occupants quickly lose their fear factor.
Which is a true shame, as the story of Little Nightmares - fleshed out as it is, wonderfully, by the DLC included in the Switch’s Complete Edition port - is a treat of gruesome titillation and macabre mystery. It’s not just Six who isn’t all she seems; other characters that she encounters - both playable (in the DLC) and not - have murky backgrounds that can be exposed through both their actions and by studying the environments they inhabit.
All of those Nomes that run from Six as she sneaks around the ship? Oh, they have their reasons for being afraid of her, and that shocking reveal is Little Nightmare’s narrative highlight, bar none. Be sure to pay attention to their shadows, too.
And you’ll want to look for those when the Switch is docked, as Little Nightmares is crisp and clear on the TV, its shadows working more as mood setters than making the screen hard to read. Played handheld, though, a game this dimly lit can’t not suffer from reflection interference, and seeing your own face peering back at you from behind Six’s misadventures doesn’t half compromise the experience.
If you are intending to play Little Nightmares undocked, then, ensure you’re someplace dark enough to avoid that. The visuals are a little fuzzier when in handheld mode, but with the stylised look Tarsier has realised here - not to mention the slow gameplay - Little Nightmares doesn’t suffer significantly for the minor dip in clarity.
The DLC, in which you play as another runaway kid entirely, is mechanically identical to the main game, and its three instalments add up to about three hours of bonus material - which is welcomed in a value-for-money capacity, as Six’s story is beatable in just over four hours, unless those loading screens grind you down first. Oh, and if you've got a Pac-Man amiibo lying about the house, you might want to dig out and dust it off for this one.
The DLC features one of the game’s very best monsters, too, an aquatic nasty that’s evocative of the truly disturbing, long-haired underwater horrors of Inside. But every time Little Nightmares throws up such a parallel to Playdead’s output, it only ever comes up short by comparison, leading one to wonder just how much better this could have been with controls that felt more responsive, and quicker turnaround times between failures.
Little Nightmares boasts some superb character and environment design, and exceptional sound too, with parts of the Maw screaming as if the ship was a gigantic bionic seafarer. Its story is compellingly told, and the way the main game connects with the DLC is immensely rewarding. But you never really feel like you have full control of Six, and the long breaks between restarts can dump you into a painful loop of spending less time in the game than you do in loading screens. These problems were present in the game’s initial release back in April 2017, and Switch owners can be forgiven for feeling disappointed that Tarsier wasn’t able to fix them for this port. If you can overlook them, though, Little Nightmares is an occasionally moreish puzzler with an exceptionally creepy cast capable of turning any stomach.
Nice review, the loading times do sound like a problem but the Story and the Aesthetic are too appealing so i'll still likely get this.
I'm guessing I'm almost at the end of the main game. So far I've loved it in a two brothers sort of way. It's a fairytale twisted with Nightmare Before Christmas and Spirited Away. The loading times aren't good, but I've been entertained and having bought it on cart I plan to lend it out to get real value out of it.
At least it's an interesting little game that I haven't played on the Wii U already, much like a lot of early 2018 titles have been. For me 8/10
Seems like a good pick up for about $20. I have an overwhelming amount of games to play on Switch, so I can wait.
I lost my pac man amiibo, but I’d buy this if I can find it lol
I really wish the game industry spent even half the effort it puts on 4k and other graphical stuff into making making load times extinct instead.
I'll wait for a load time patch fix, have plenty other games in the mean time.
I won’t be double dipping, i’ll just play my copy on PS4
I haven’t read the review yet but the reviews for its original release were near perfect.... interesting
I don't think I have ever disagreed with a review more than this one. The ONLY complaint is the load times, but taking 4 points off for that is kind of ridiculous. Yes, they are frustrating, but that's why i would give the game an 8 or 8.5. The game is gorgeous, fun, inventive, and super creepy. Hopefully, there will be a patch.
This review felt SO overly harsh... what’s your damage? It deserves at least a 7.
@Equinox Hmm...kind of hard to say. The cast of the boat's "crew" and "passengers" are...very disturbing. Like the "twin chefs" look like they are actually wearing someone else's skin as faces, pulled over their own heads as masks. The devil is in the details, so they say. I wouldn't say its too badly "scarring", though it could possibly give someone nightmares. lol... And if you play through the whole story and all DLC...the way it loops everything back together is a bit of an "ah hah!" moment...but then comes the stomach turning that makes it even MORE creepy/disturbing, as you put it all together.
Probably going to be getting this on sale. Looks really good otherwise and a solid side-cart to Inside/Limbo.
I was very excited for this game on the Switch and grabbed it as soon as I could. While I LOVE the overall aesthetics (Coraline meets Limbo), I find the gameplay to be pretty boring and the load times painful. Wait until this game is on sale and it will be worth a pickup.
Of all the reviews out there for this game on the other consoles and there are many ,this among the lowest. Other than a few lines the whole review just comes across as negative and has far too much focus on the load times,in 5 different paragraphs it's brought up. With all the high scores NL hand out to similar priced but far less ambitious games I'm not sure I really trust this verdict when the vast majority of other reviewers talk highly of it. Switch Watch on YouTube recommended it highly giving it an 8/10, I find their reviews to be spot on for the most part.
That said,long load times are frustrating and if they occur regularly it can really affect your enjoyment of a game,regardless of how good it is.
This game is far better than a 6 IMO. It boggles my mind how completely mediocre games can get a 6-9 on this site, and a game like this gets a 6.
I know, it's all subjective, but IMO, this is a really good game, not a "meh" game, and nearly every other reviewer out there agrees with me.
Hopefully those load times can be improved. There have been a few other Switch games that had terrible load/save times and saw vast improvements in later patches.
I'm on the fence about this game. It sounds right up my alley but I really hate buying super-short games when there are so many that offer entertainment for dozens or hundreds of hours. I appreciate that a game's value is not just a function of time to dollars spent, but I do have watch my money.
I just finished Regalia of Men and Monarchs over the weekend with its painful loading times. One of the key downsides of that game. Another game with a similar problem is very unappealing.
But in this case, where I really liked that aesthetic and genre of Regalia, this game is far outside my preferred genre and aesthetic. So its not for me doubly so.
Thank you, Switch, for being region-free. Ordered a Pal version of this because no physical editions released in the USA.
@DementedAvenger2 Completely agree. This review can be summed up very simply: "The game sucks." But I wholeheartedly disagree. So far my only complaints are the load times (which honestly don't bother me that much) and the somewhat short length of the game. Totally worth the buy though. Haven't been this freaked out by a game in a while. If anyone is doubting, ignore this lopsided review and buy it!
4 points docked for loading times? Hmm...
@Equinox it is kind of disturbing. It's not Five nights at Freddy jumpscare scary. It is legit scary. The implications of what the enemies do to children is pretty disturbing. However, he may not understand what's happening, so...there is that.
Hmm, NL also mentioned loading time in the Battle Chasers review (a bit long but not really bad) and didn't affect the score this badly.
Didn't play it on Switch - but was totally worth the buy. Art and atmosphere are great. I'm glad it also out on Switch.
This has an 81 metacritic on PC and you still need to attach the switch portability factor.
I don't think that review scores work like that, they don't start at 10 and then take points off, neither do they start at 1 and add points on. It's just an arbitrary number that the reviewer thinks the game is worth.
I already have this on Steam, so I’m giving this Switch version the cleaver.
Long load times for a respawn are unforgivable in my book. My gaming time is so limited, that a loading screen annoys me - I barely play Doom as it takes to long to initially load (it also doesn’t help that I’m crap at it...). If a patch comes along I’ll probably get this though, as I think it looks visually stunning
This is the first time Im finding a NL review to be way off. Theres no way Little Nightmares deserves a 6. Its a shame because it will drive off curious players who only scroll down to the score. With the load times, this is easily an 8, if not higher. If you liked Inside or any immersive headphone experience, get this for sure.
Load times seem to be a very common issue on Switch. Painful on Oxenfree, load times have basically stopped my enjoyment of Night in the Woods. And several reviews have mentioned them lately.
Terrible review. This game is easily an 8, It just sounds like this guy has an axe to grind.
Hey Mike, nice review. You seem to have had a lot of issues with dying and reloading.
Maybe you should get gud son.
Are the loading times worse than other versions? A 6 is generous for any game spent more on the loading screen than playing!
At first I thought this review was a bit harsh.
However, I then tried to imagine how it'd be like to play a game like this, where death is very frequent, and having to wait too long after each death for the game to reload.
It would ruin the experience for me as well. So yes, if those loading times are true, then @MikeDiver had every right to criticize it in his review and thus the score is very warranted.
9 for me. My 6 yr old and I both loved it on PS4. Handheld version for his Switch is a no brainer. He'll love playing through it again. I must be pretty patient as Im never really bothered by loading times in any game, certainly not enough to dock points off a good game.
This game is just weird for fans of weird stuff.
How long are the loading times? The personal perception differs for each player. I have no problems with Zelda's or Doom's loading times but a friend of mine just can't stand them because for him they are too long. So it would be nice to state how long these are.
Mine just got delivered in the post today, still playing DK:TF but on last world so will probably start playing this later this week
I'm not sure on that either, but the annoyance of loading times greatly depend on how often they occur as well. Say the loading times for this game are 30 seconds. Not too bad, except when you die every couple of minutes, or even more frequently at some points, those 30 seconds become really troublesome.
I do remember being frustrated by the load-times combined with some very short play-time only to die in the same way over and over (during a certain boss fight), but other than that I have very fond memories of playing this game.
Definitely an 8, at least, in my book.
I got this game on cartridge, because I love to collect Switch Game, and I must say this is way better than 6. Sure the Loading times are too long. But the Game is visually stunning, has a great atmosphere and makes you simply want to continue playing. I think its amazing and worth they buy.
Goodness me, the comments on this thing! 'The reviewer's subjective opinion disagrees with other people's subjective opinions, ergo he must be wrong!'
I'm presuming that most of the complainers haven't read the whole review. It's specifically stated near the beginning that the lack of sympathy for the protagonist made the stakes feel lower than they should have done for such a thing. A subjective comment, sure, but evidence that it's not 'just the loading times' that resulted in the 6/10. (That's not to mention 'spongey controls, unclear environments and ropey collision detection' - fairly damning for a puzzle-platformer, no?) The text matches up with the number in tone, which is what really matters.
More and more reviewers now are reverting to simpler scoring mechanisms, because they think people focus too much on the numbers and not enough on the words that they actually put the effort into. I hope this doesn't happen on Ninty Life, because I actually like the numbers; but from the comments here, I wouldn't be surprised if it did.
@Whalehome ok then ?
Spot on review
The loading times sound frustrating, but after watching the trailer on the switch news channel and some of the comments this sounds like one for my wishlist. I think the look and feel of this game would be enough for me to overlook the issues.
I heard great things about this game and it looks great too. So I am super surprised that this game scores so low on this site. Anyway, I might still get it someday at a lower price. The game still looks pretty cool to me.
Totally agree with you!
I have this on the PS4, and to be frank, the visuals are far more interesting than the game itself is. It's just rather dull to play.
@gloom Yeah, despite not caring about this game personally I do think compared to the average review, this seems pretty low. Metacritic for this on switch is 78 and that is actually fairly decent. But yeah, I bet it does have its problems so it's good NL does put out their real opinions in reviews despite other reviews.
@moroboshi Totally agree!
It's pretty rare for the Nintendo Life review to be lower than the general consensus but hey, more power to you I guess for being honest about how you feel.
i picked it up and am enjoying it. i liked limbo enough so this one works for me.
load time is slow but that's probably to be expected. the switch is slow so if we're complaining about that then time to dumpster the console and stick to 1x or sony pro.
6 seems harsh, ive only heard good things about this game. Im definitely picking this up.
Was going to get this but the short length put me off.
@Mrbayram92 i didn’t realize I needed to have a post long enough for your satisfaction. This negative review of the switch version makes me want to steer clear of it and not play it on Switch.
This look like a relaxing game once in a while. I'll be getting it this weekend.
Thanks for the review.
The game interests me enough that I may pick it up when it's on sale. The last indie game I picked up for Halloween (Year Walk) was really well done.
So basically, the reviewer gives a 6 out of 10 because he loves the game, the story, the music, the gameplay, the DLC but he doesn't like the loading times. Seems to me that the reviewer needs to go back to the Reviewer's College to get a higher grade diploma.
In all honesty, I am less bothered about the load times than most as, while not an excuse for poor optimization, it adds a bit higher stakes for each session.
These people in the comments freaking out over "The reviewer being entitled to their own opinion" are probably the same people that DDoS attacked the Jimquistion when he gave Breath of the Wild a 7 lol.
But in all seriousness, yes, of course the reviewer is entitled to their own opinion. That goes without saying. However, that doesn't relinquish said reviewer from any form of criticism himself or of the responsibility of a fair review.
What if someone gave The Witcher 3 a 1 out of 10? Would you say that's a good review simply because the critic is entitled to their opinion? I know I wouldn't. I would argue that person probably has poor taste, and I would suggest others to disregard that review.
What I'm trying to get to here is: Don't let this review scare you away from playing Little Nightmares. Little Nightmares is a really neat game that more people need to experience. We need more games like this, so when one comes around we should probably try to support it
@Switch_will_fail Thank you.
@Switch_will_fail Depends. Does the text back up the critic's point of view? Can they spin a good argument as to why they think The Witcher 3 is worth a 1/10 (reductio ad absurdum aside)? Because that's what the vast majority of the comments seem to overlook. They focus on the numbers, or on one criticism the reviewer made out of many. I think the text backs up the score well enough.
The number on its own absolutely shouldn't scare people away from Little Nightmares. If people think some of the points that made the critic award that number will reduce the fun they have? That's a different story.
'Taste' is subjective as all hell.
"'Taste' is subjective as all hell."
Completely correct. It's astonishing that this still needs explaining to people who are supposed to be functioning members of society.
I played the base game on PS4 and don't remember not feeling in control of Six, nor did I feel that her deaths did not matter. I'm actually surprised that the review goes into as much detail as it does as I felt these reveals that it criticises the game for were what made it so intriguing and compelling. Of course now anyone who has read this review will expect them, and so they won't seem as good.
The loading times were an issue though, and overall the game was quite short (though I remember it being much cheaper than a full game anyway so no real issue). But for me those were the only shortcomings of this game. It deserves way higher than a 6, I would give it an 8 - 8.5, which seems the general consensus on Metacritic too.
I have this game on PS4 and thought it was great, the visuals remind me of a Miyazaki film. One of the best indie games last year.
@electrolite77 Don't pat yourself on the back too much. There is a such thing as bad taste, whether you want to believe it or not
Bad taste is subjective as well
Just bought this and while it is good and I plan to see it through to the end, the load times are an issue. There are a couple tricky segments that will kill you within a couple seconds if unsuccessful and then back to the 30 second load screen (maybe longer!).
For anyone who may read this, the game has been patched and the load times have been reduced dramatically. Around 25 seconds now. I'm playing it now for the first time and really enjoying it.
@OorWullie Thanks helpful thanks - it's on sale now and this may tip my decision.
I really enjoyed this game. In my opinion it’s a brilliant little atmospheric side scroller. I disagree about not being empathetic to six, I was heavily invested in her character and the story. Definitely recommend! I picked up the game on the Espoo for about 8 euro (sale) and I can’t wait to play the sequel. The load times are a little long when you die (about 10 to 20 seconds) but completely manageable. They don’t compromise the experience.
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