Little Nightmares Hands-On Preview

February 9, 2017

Tarsier Studios come from a long association with neat platformers, assisting in the development of titles like LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway UnfoldedLittle Nightmares, on the other hand, is entirely their own creation, bringing puzzle-platformer elements to a twisted Tim Burton-esque world. Bandai Namco recently invited us to play through a short section from Little Nightmares, and while my time with the game was limited, it certainly peaked my interest for the full experience.

Little Nightmares takes place on board The Maw, an enormous vessel home to strange creatures, as well as our main character, a little girl in a yellow raincoat named Six. Six has to navigate the various environments and weird contraptions on board The Maw.

The level I played took place across a small collection of rooms – starting in the bedroom of the deformed Chef, whose decor seems to indicate he may suffer from some kind of split personality, with a self-portrait split in two sitting atop his twin single beds, joined together to support his copious weight. As Six enters the room through the porthole on the wall, strange hooded creatures scurry around the floor and hide immediately. Six herself appears tiny in the game’s environments, doll sized compared to the rest of the world. Her movement is 3D, albeit in rooms with a shallow depth to them, making it seem more like a hybrid 2D/3D platformer at some points.


When I say that the design of the word is very Tim Burton-esque I’m not kidding, and that’s one of the biggest things Little Nightmares has going for it at the moment. Tarsier has built a very visually interesting and engaging world. The exaggerated design of the Chef feels like it’s straight out of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is no bad thing at all. While the scenery can be eerie and creepy, so far I have not seen it be outright gory – the Chef’s ham hocks and steaks are more than enough suggestion.

Six doesn’t have any attacks at her disposal, but she is able to drag objects around with R2 (on PS4), and sneak using L2. After dragging a suitcase around the floor to reach the door knob to the exit, Six is able to take an elevator down to the kitchen, where the Chef is busy at work. This is where the sneaking comes in handy, as Six has to avoid the lumbering giant by crawling underneath tables and around his line of sight. Being spotted doesn’t mean instant death either, as Six can sprint away and try to lose him by hiding.

Escaping the Chef leads Six to a puzzle room, where a giant meat grinder sits with a sausage extruder. While I don’t want to give away every puzzle solution, the way forward involves a bit of exploration and lateral thinking to create a path of escape. It’s a disturbing and creepy puzzle without being overly bloody either, while there is certainly blood in and around the machine, it’s up to your imagination what exactly might be going into those sausages.


Finally, Six ends up in a gigantic hold full of shoes, filling as even more are sent down through chutes on all sides. If you’ve got any familiarity with history, you may begin to suspect how horrible what’s going on in The Maw might be – and that’s before a ripple starts flowing through the shoes behind Six as something begins to close in on her, very quickly.

That’s where the demo ends, and it is only a short slice of the action, but enough to get an idea of where the game is headed – macabre, creepy platform puzzles punctuated by stealth sections. The controls felt a little stiff at this stage, especially when jumping, but there’s still time to get issues like this ironed out before release. If you’re a fan of Tim Burton or stop motion films like Coraline, you should be watching Little Nightmares with a particularly keen interest, as it nears its release on 28 April 2017.