Very few of you will have probably heard of Tarsier Studios, the Swedish developer behind the PS Vita version of LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway Unfolded and a whole host of LittleBigPlanet DLC. That may soon change however, as I feel their latest title, Little Nightmares, may be about to put them firmly on the map. Big time.
Getting a chance to sit down with the title at EGX 2016, I was initially blown away by just how gorgeous it looks. Environments have personality and a real sense of being, whilst the character models are exquisitely designed and animated. More impressive though is how it manages to be all dark and foreboding yet effortlessly cute, simultaneously. Trust me; it’s hard to not be instantly won over by your little yellow raincoat wearing protagonist, Six, and even the grotesque chef I encountered in the demo had a certain charm to him. And the audio seemed great too, utilised effectively to create a genuine sense of unease at times which pleasantly surprised me.
Showing off Tarsier’s experience with Sackboy and his exploits, the demo started with me needing to escape a bedroom, a task I completed by pulling a suitcase into position before jumping on it to reach the door handle. It felt rather familiar and intuitive, but as soon as I entered the next room, Little Nightmares threw a curveball that prevented me from resting on my laurels.
Coming face to face with a disfigured chef, I quickly had to resort to stealth to avoid being detected, biding my time in the dark space under a kitchen unit. With the coast seemingly clear, I emerged from my hiding place and made a dash across the room. Then, it happened. The chef made an unexpected turn, spotting me before eliciting a ghastly groan. In my moment of terror, I floundered, scrambling my way up some shelves to escape the now aggrieved chef via a vent.
With the immediate danger now left behind me, I felt a moment of relief. It was at this point that Little Nightmares felt comfortable introducing me to another facet of its gameplay: puzzles. A meat mincing machine stood prominently on the table, and the only way of escaping the room I’d found myself in was out of reach. Using an elevator, I discovered a storeroom full of meat and an interesting looking trapdoor. Putting two and two together, I dragged numerous bundles of meat onto the trapdoor and then returned to the mincing machine, grabbing its handle and furiously rotating it. The result wasn’t quite what I expected – a fresh string of sausages – but using them as a makeshift rope, I was able to swing to freedom.
Sensing that the Little Nightmares demo was coming to a close as I crawled through an air vent, I was glad to find that there was one more shock left in store. Dropping into an eerie space inexplicably filled to the brim with worn shoes, fear struck as an unseen entity approached from behind, footwear being strewn aside realistically as it made a beeline for me. Cutting away to a “Thank You for Playing!” screen before the mystery of the creature was revealed, my interest was well and truly piqued, and I was left ravenous for more of what Little Nightmares had just served me.
Suffice to say, I left the Little Nightmares booth very impressed with what I had just played. Managing to combine solid yet twee gameplay mechanics with a nice dose of horror, Little Nightmares looks set to offer a unique experience that totally took me by surprise. Currently pencilled in for release early next year, Little Nightmares should undoubtedly be weighing big on your mind if you’re not already enamoured by it.