Thursday, September 01, 2016
We've all had weird dreams featuring twisted creatures that expose our deepest, darkest fears. Little Nightmares (originally know as Hunger) has had those dreams too, transforming them into imaginative landscapes that the game's young girl protagonist, Six, must traverse wearing only a hooded yellow coat. A platformer involving a few puzzles along the way, Little Nightmares' aesthetic is also incredibly memorable, its rendition of common nightmarish themes wonderfully realised.
"It's the roots of why we founded the company,” says Tarsier Studios co-founder Andreas Johnsson. “To make our own games.” Tarsier's previous work includes LittleBigPlanet for PS Vita and Tearaway Unfolded, among other related content, but Little Nightmares is very much the developer's own thing, building upon what the studio started with the cancelled City of Metronome, first debuted in 2005. We went hands-on, and you can see how we got on in the gameplay video below.
“We have a dream of making dark, atmospheric, twisted games,” Johnsson elaborates, before we're given the chance to enter The Maw, Little Nightmares' bizarre setting that people are inexplicably drawn to without know what awaits them inside. Within moments we discover exactly what Johnsson means. Little Nightmares is strange, our demo featuring a wobbly, freakish chef concocting all manner of hideous dishes within his kitchen.
Drawn into the depths of The Maw, it's your job to help Six escape what Tarsier describes as 'The Disturbing Dollhouse'; distorted, heightened and exaggerated environments that play upon childhood fears, like the monster that lurks under the bed. Simple things become interesting objects to be climbed or manipulated, delivering a “dark tone with a playful spirit,” says Tarsier. It's “fun horror”, in the words of the Swedish studio, which sounds like an oxymoron, but actually works in summing up Little Nightmares in a nutshell.
Character design also adheres to this concept of fun horror and childhood fears, as Six finds herself relentlessly chased by disembodied or sometimes unseen threats, like outstretched arms with gnarled fingers that reach out to grab and take her off to who-knows-where. “Scary things” lurk in dark corners, but the chef in Little Nightmares' Gamescom demo is a tense game of hide and seek, the screeching sound he makes when he spots you making your hair stand on end.
Six has no weapons or powers; she's simply a vulnerable young girl trapped in a bizarre and skewed world where sometimes the only option is to turn heel and run away or hide. You can slide and leap, solve puzzles and more, meaning you're also able to get creative while uncovering the mystery and intrigue that lies at the heart of Little Nightmares “grim adventure”. Above all, however, Little Nightmares is looking gorgeous and plays as well as it looks. We can't wait to see what other imaginative dreamscapes Tarsier can conjure up when Little Nightmares launches next year.
Little Nightmares is out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in spring 2017.