Video (games) killed the storyteller: ‘Little Nightmares’

Not every video game created follows the simple storytelling motif. On the contrary, many indie game developers will break the mold time and time again in an effort to make their games stand out in a sea of similarity. One such game that achieves the breaking of the storytelling mold is the game “Little Nightmares.”

Developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment in April 2017, “Little Nightmares” is a puzzle-platformer horror game. This essentially means you play third-person as a character through a series of puzzles and obstacles in different levels in order to complete a certain goal.

“Little Nightmares” adds an element of horror to the genre and it is done rather well. The game begins with eerie music and the screen is pitch black. The silhouette of a woman in a kimono and her hair up appears. The screen fades to black again, then focuses on a small girl in a yellow rain jacket waking up in a strange, metal room. This is the only context the player is given before gameplay commences.

This opening is unique for a number of reasons. The first being that the opening sequence is an instance of foreshadowing for the climax. The second being that there is no verbal narrative within the game. The game will give prompts if the player becomes stuck within a puzzle, such as “use square and right trigger to move objects,” but other than that, the game is eerily absent of directions.

Because this game is absent of vocalization entirely, I cannot properly rate my usual section for dialogue. Instead I will rate this game for ambiance in place of voice acting and dialogue. The unsettling sounds of your environment, along with the soft music that escalates quickly when being chased by a long armed blind janitor, all of which add a touch of panic overall. For the ambiance in this game, and its ability to give me pangs of panic and motivation without ever explaining what I’m running toward or from, I’ll give it a rating of a 7 out of 10.

The overall story of “Little Nightmares” is one that involves a bit of patience. With each level and area the puzzles become a little less straight forward, and the importance to finish the puzzles quickly escalates the further along your character progresses. For the story to progress you must finish these puzzles and they are fun as well as challenging at times. The story pushed me forward to discover how the game ended. For the overall story I give “Little Nightmares” a 6 out of 10. This is mostly because I feel that the story could have had a bit more substance such as lore and perhaps organic narrative, but I did love the twist toward the end.

The digestibility of the story is one that is a bit complex. It took a bit of research out of game for me to fully understand the eccentricities of the overall plot. In my research I have found several forums voicing the confusion over the meaning of “Little Nightmares” as well as the theories on what the game is actually about. Simply because I had to hunt down information for myself through different sources, I knocked some points off and regrettably have to give the game a 5 out of 10 for this category.

“Little Nightmares” is a creative and thrilling game of which the inner workings are equal parts entertaining as well as dark and startling. I immensely enjoyed the game and encourage other players to give it a shot. The game may surprise you.

So the question remains, did “Little Nightmares” kill the storyteller? Nope, I think it just bit the storyteller in the ankle and ran toward a dumbwaiter to the next level.

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