The recent slew of cheerless games about young children being eaten alive by pigs and crushed to death by falling anvils continues unabated with Little Nightmares. A bleak, side-scrolling puzzle platformer that takes cues from developer Playdead’s Inside and Limbo, it casts the player as a kid in a bright yellow parka who awakes to find themselves alone and lost inside an orphanage populated by Guillermo del Toro cheese dreams.
The game exudes a creeping, nightmarish sense of horror as you navigate physics puzzles and evade the grotesque and silhouetted monstrosities that stalk the viscera smeared kitchens and fetid dormitories of your prison. The distended dimensions of the environments in which you hide – bedframes and bookshelves tower above you like buildings – compound a vulnerable and childlike sensation of being dwarfed. Simply reaching a door handle becomes a puzzle in this outsized world.
Part twisted Roald Dahl cautionary tale, part gruesome game of hide and seek, Little Nightmares isn’t without problems. It’s a little short (ahah!), lasting just five hours, and a few frustratingly tricky sections will halt your progress. Those who’ve played Inside and Limbo might find the atmosphere and style a little overly familiar too, and perhaps an opportunity has been wasted to build upon the concepts laid out by those titles. But you’ll come out the other end of this dark adventure rattled, relieved and wanting more.