Monday, October 9, 2017

Little Nightmares is a Little Short

So Little Nightmares is a game that I've not heard a lot about before buying, other than it's pretty good and has a cool aesthetic about it. After buying it and playing it through, I can confirm that this is true. The game's like playing a Tim Burton movie, to be quite honest. It's got a great sense of atmosphere, the art direction is spot on, the music is amazing, the lighting is good, and your first playthrough feels like a dead-to-rights horror game. Fair warning, this post is gonna be a bit of a brain dump.

LN tells the story of a nine-year-old girl named Six (yes, really, stop laughing) as she attempts to escape a massive vessel called The Maw (yes, really, stop laughing) that is filled with all kinds of creatures that want to do nasty murderous things to the tiny critters inhabiting this ship. Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Well, it is, the only problem with all this is that I had to read the fucking Wikipedia page to figure ANY OF THAT OUT. If there's one thing this game gets monstrously wrong, it's conveyance. I didn't even know the long armed short monster guy was The Maw's Janitor until I read the wiki. I thought he was a passenger, or something. Don't get me wrong, none of this is necessary knowledge to enjoy the game, it's fun on its own. However, if you're going to plan out all this backstory for your game and the world and the characters in it, it would be nice if all that neat stuff was, you know, in the game. 

It might sound like I'm being harsh, and I am, and it's going to get worse. I'm going in dry, here, so the devs need to bite the pillow on this one. But I can say that I do enjoy playing the game. It's good, I like the atmosphere, the controls are tight, the music is evocative, the sound effects are good (wear headphones, trust me), the art is incredible, and overall the game is a fun and terrifying experience. Buy it on sale, is my verdict, if you want it before I start tearing this game a new asshole.

It might also sound like I'm a little salty, and I am, and there's a good reason for it. I feel like I got taken. This game is too expensive. I payed $30 for the game itself and all the DLC, and that was too much money. That includes 2 different masks for Six to wear, The Depths expansion pack, and the Secrets of The Maw Expansion Pass. I didn't get the original soundtrack, because that was another five bucks, and fuck that noise. This game can be beaten in under an hour. That's actually an achievement. Beat the game in under an hour with no deaths and you get the Hard To The Core achievement. And it's a good thing this game has achievements, because apart from that the only conceivable reason to play it more than once is to enjoy the art style and gameplay. Which is possible, if you're that kind of gamer. I did a couple of times. You don't really get to take everything in during a single playthrough, and the game's short enough to beat multiple times in a night. I did, just last night. 

But even the DLC, which is about a third as long as the actual game itself, I'm told, the masks that Six can wear (an upside-down teacup and a scarecrow mask, both of which are adorable), and the achievements, I overpaid for this game. Like I said, get it on sale, otherwise you, like me, will be forced to play it through thirty times trying to get all the achievements so you can justify your purchase (also it's too late for me to refund the thing, I've played it longer than 2 hours). Bottom line, this is not enough game for a $30 price tag, DLC included. 

And, as I said before, this game has a serious conveyance problem. Not the actual goings on in the gameplay itself, all of that is neatly laid out, and if you can't work something out, it's generally your fault. I'm not the best with puzzle games, and I didn't have to look up a guide on how to beat parts of this game. I just sat there and worked it out based on the clues on the screen at any given time. It's not a hard game, which is probably why I don't recall any game journos pitching a bitch fit over it. 

But if I have to read your game's Wikipedia page to get the backstory, you're doing it wrong. After my first three playthroughs of this game, I was left with more than a few questions. I had seen the name of the main character and the ship The Maw in comments on Steam and assumed those people knew what they were talking about, so my questions tended towards a more...I guess esoteric bent.

Who is Six?
What is The Maw and where did it come from?
What are The Nomes?
Where is this place where humans are so tiny?
Who is The Lady (the Geisha) and why is Six afraid of her to the point of having nightmares about her?
Who are the obese monsters in suits and dresses in the galley?
Why does Six eat the Nome instead of the sausage it was offering her?

Oh, yeah, that's another thing. Six is periodically struck by hunger pains, which usually mean that you're near the end of a chapter of the game. [B E G I N  S P O I L E R S, SKIP AHEAD TO THE NEXT BRACKETS IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS] This starts off innocently enough, with Six being given a piece of bread by a shadowy figure about her size. It progresses to a scene of her being lured by food and captured, and eventually she is struck by the pains and all that's around is a rat caught by the neck in a spring-activated mousetrap, which she eats alive. As I mentioned in my list of questions, she next runs into a Nome that offers her a sausage, and instead of taking the sausage, she tackles the Nome and eats him alive as well. Then, after the fight with The Lady, Six eats her and gains her magical powers, which she then uses to kill a shitload of the obese monsters as they try to eat her while she's calmly walking to the stairs to escape. [E N D  S P O I L E R S]

This makes no real sense to me. Maybe it's meant to show that Six is becoming more monstrous as her surroundings grow bleaker and bleaker, but if that's the case why does she seem so happy, or at least innocent, in the ending cinematic? There's no real consequence for it, it's just confusing, and it makes her look like as much a ravening monster as the creatures she's fighting and escaping from. It seems like the game is trying to show you something instead of tell you, but I'll be damned if I can work out what that something is. 

It's a shame that the game wound up like this, because the world is beautifully presented and seems very deep. I wouldn't have all these questions if everything were surface level. There are a lot of words of praise I can give to this game, but I have to couch them in my complaints. I recommend you pick it up and give it a couple playthroughs, but be sure to get it on sale. It's available on Steam and GOG, so wishlist it and wait for them to email you about it. In the meantime I'd avoid watching YouTube videos of this game, because something like this is meant to be experienced rather than watched.

It's a competent puzzle-platformer with tight controls and some of the best atmosphere I've seen since Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Outlast (which are terrible games in their own rights, but they have incredible atmosphere). The puzzles can be challenging but aren't overly hard to solve, the art direction is phenomenal, like I say, overall it's worth a purchase. Just not for the money they're asking up front.

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