Having missed out on Little Nightmares’ release on other platforms last year, I was more than excited to hear it was making the journey to the Switch this month. It’s a game that, while an intriguing choice for the hybrid, manages to make use of the system’s potential in fun ways. Further, it’s an adventure that I found as bloodcurdling as it is fascinating, and, even though the port has some issues, is another great game that’s made its way to the system.
Little Nightmares’ main story casts you as Six, a child who’s navigating a world that is, quite literally, larger than life. That world is called The Maw, and it’s bloody well terrifying to explore.
As you make your way through The Maw, solving puzzles and traversing the world, you’ll quickly come to realise that not all is peachy in this ocean facility. Grotesque creatures scour the place, and can gobble you up without too much effort if you aren’t careful. Because of this, stealth becomes a very important element from the game’s early stages — you’ve got to learn to understand the sounds of the world as much as you take in the environment Six is exploring.
While Little Nightmares finds its feet in the horror genre, stealth also plays a major role in the way you make your way through the five-hour adventure. You don’t have anything in the way of fighting back against these creepy creatures that lurk throughout The Maw, and your best option is to run and hide. And it’s in this game of hide and seek that Little Nightmares truly shines.
Some instances of this — where you’ve just scoured away from an enemy, hoping it didn’t follow your movements into your hiding spot, for example — are incredibly well done, and the way the game makes use of dread is excellent. On more than a few occasions I could literally feel my heart pounding and my palms sweating as the tension rose through the roof following a close call with a pursuer. It was riveting stuff.
Establishing this kind of immersion is tough, but Tarsier Studios have done a great job in subtle world building. Further, the fantastic sound design — which picks up the most minuscule of things, like feet tapping on a creaky board and a lamp swinging from side to side — propels the experience into something that feels unique and special in ways many horror games don’t.
Jump scares in Little Nightmares are few and far between, too, but what Tarsier have managed to excel at here is establishing a feeling of dread, which follows you throughout the entire experience. Knowing the next room could hold dangers constantly kept me on edge, and even the minor victories — when I’d solved a tough puzzle or successfully snuck past an enemy — were always followed by doubts creeping into my mind about what the next room would hold. This, more than anything else, is one of the game’s greatest assets.
Bringing something of this nature over to the Switch is an interesting choice, only because I feel like the game is at its most effective in an environment free from distractions. I couldn’t imagine playing Little Nightmares on a crowded train or a bus for instance, as it’d take away from the excellent work Tarsier have done in making the game such an immersive and nerve wracking experience.
That said, in terms of performance alone the Switch port of the game is good. It looks great in handheld mode, and looks decent when you’ve got the console docked and playing on a TV. There’s definitely a noticeable loss of fidelity with the latter, though the game’s art style and minimal presentation tend to cover up its faults and blemishes.
This version of the game also comes with all of its DLC, which adds a couple of more hours to the experience thanks to a seperate story. I’m not sure whether the high price tag justifies the purchase, however, given the overall length of Little Nightmares sits at anywhere between 5 – 10 hours depending on how good you are at solving puzzles and escaping from the creatures within.
Further, one of my biggest issues with the game’s port on Switch right now is that the load times are abysmally long. This becomes especially annoying when you have to repeat a section multiple times — whether that’s due to being caught by a monster or failing in a platforming section — and it strips away a lot of the immersion the game so expertly crafts. Hopefully this can be resolved in a future patch, because other than that Little Nightmares on Switch is an absolute blast.
I feel like I missed a gem when Little Nightmares launched last year, and I’m really happy to have been able to give it a crack on the Switch. The game’s a wonderfully unique take on horror, and is something fans of the genre should definitely check out. The port isn’t the greatest, though, and load times tend to break immersion, but underneath the small issues lies something great. Here’s hoping we get more of Little Nightmares and its universe in the future.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Tarsier Studios’ unique take on horror is immersive and terrifying, and, barring some load time issues and small technical problems, finds a good home on the Switch.