Thursday 30 August, 2018
Once upon a time she was innocent. Then she was born. Through the same world that created her, she became corrupt. Not all at once, mind you, but little by little. With each struggle came a poison that sank into her bones. It enveloped her mind and blackened her soul. Once upon a time, she was innocent. Now, she is no longer.
If youíve ever played Little Nightmares, then you know what I'm talking about. As the character Six, you start out ignorant and scared. Youíre in a world you know little about with an agenda thatís even more obscure. The only thing you know for certain is that you must escape, alive. If only it were so easy.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
On the first day of playing Little Nightmares I was awash with several emotions, all strung together and manipulated by the story of Six--a tiny girl in a bright yellow raincoat whoís just as lost as you are. You wake up in suitcase bigger than yourself and totter into a desolate world full of grim horrors known as the Maw. The setting is dark, the music ominous but ambient, and the characters strikingly grotesque. With only a lighter and your wits about you, you must traverse the darkness, avoid the monsters, and escape the clutches of death that seem to loom at you from every corner. Sounds like a dream come true, for you horror fans.
In all honesty, I do believe Iím underwhelming Little Nightmares. It isnít just horror and evil. Itís mystery, intrigue, and lots of tension. Itís insanely beautiful and frighteningly good. If you can stomach a little blood and a lot of death, this just might be the game for you. Just donít let your kid play it. Seriously. This game is not for anyone under the age of mature! Anyway, back to the doom and gloom.
So you start at the beginning of Little Nightmares. Itís dark and dreary and you have no idea what you really should be doing. You walk. Then you run, sneak, and run some more. The first level is pretty basic, albeit no less eerie. From the second youíre on your feet youíre surrounded by music thatíll pull at your heart and make you jump out of your seat. Youíre haunted by ever present darkness, cut through only by the occasional dim light or bright eye. And wherever you go, no matter how hard or fast you run, youíre always surrounded by death. Blood streaks walls and floors, and bodies hang from above. Occasionally youíll even notice shoes in odd places--a symbolism of death in their own right. Itís as pleasant as it sounds, but it is easy to complete. With only one enemy, Leeches whoíll suck you bone dry the second they have the chance, youíre pretty much guaranteed to die only a handful of times.
The next level, The Lair, isnít such a walk in the park. In the Lair, you meander through studies, bedrooms, bathrooms, and the like. Itís all cozy, with a side of creepy. The eyes you saw all throughout the first level reside here as well, in the walls and in the doors. Itís as if the game itself it watching you. Waiting. In contrast, the Lairís monster is a little less...visual. Designed with no eyes and long arms, the Janitor is the first true monster youíll come upon. In my opinion, heís also the freakiest. He canít see you, but he can hear and smell you. Donít underestimate him. It might just be the last thing you do. That said, youíre going to have to defeat him to finish this level out. So get your running shoes on and get ready to scramble some eggs, or in this case cut off some arms. Donít worry, itís all questionably ethical.
Taking down the Janitor is like finishing that big test. Itís exhilarating and will leave you sick in the stomach from all the stress. In terms of moving on with the game, it is well worth the blood and gore. As a human being with feelings, however, youíre free to take a break and reassess your sanity. Itís alright, we understand. Not everyone is born a murderer.
Once you get back to the game get ready to hug some Nomeís and toss some Lady statues around! In the past two levels you should have noticed little gray creatures running around. These are Nomeís. You can hug them for brownie points and an overall achievement. Likewise, picking up the Lady statues and throwing them, so they break, also gives you an achievement. What? I should have stated this sooner? Well, that sounds like something a reasonably sane person would do. Sorry, not sorry. Iím here for the entertainment and adrenaline. If you want reasonable, maybe you should try Limbo instead. Oh, and before I forget, Lanterns are also important. Not only do they give you an achievement if you light them all, but they work as checkpoints. Which means your dead ass doesnít have to resurrect so far back, so long as you donít skip over lighting them. This is really good to know, because in this new level, the Kitchen, youíre likely to die more times then youíre willing to admit. No? Okay, maybe thatís just me.
The Kitchen is exactly what it sounds like, plus some blood and insinuated dead bodies. The monsters youíll find lurking here are the Twin Chefs who are far too happy about throwing you in the oven or shoving you into a fish the second they catch you. I donít know if this is too soon to mention this, but thereís a lovely little reoccurring theme with Little Nightmares that centers around death. What? You noticed that? Oh. Well, itís not just any death. Little Nightmares centers specifically on the death of children, particularly eating children. Thatís why from here on out youíre more likely to be ďdevouredĒ than just straight up murdered. Donít worry though. Itís all insinuated. You donít actually see anyone stuffing Six down their throat. At least, as far as Iím aware of.
Anyway, back to the Kitchen and the Twin Chefs. The Kitchen, like all the other levels previous and after it, is gory and horrific. Youíve got a pile of dead bodies and the death of a rat to start with. No, the Twin Chefs do not kill the rat for their own purposes. You do. At least, Six does. As noticed in the previous levels, Six tends to get hungry at one point or another. As a human she does have to eat to survive and so she eats whateverís in reach. In past times this has been bread or meat. This time, it happens to be a live rat. Yummy! Not. At this point I assumed the creators were just having fun shocking the player. They hint at the rats death before it happens, but itís still disturbing when it does. The truth of what this escalating ďhungerĒ is, however, is far more than I could have imagined. Itís only in the last two levels that everything becomes clear. I digress. Before I spoil it too much, let's get back into the Kitchen...for a second time.
So the Kitchen. Yeah, I hate the Kitchen. Itís one of the worst levels. Itís not particularly hard, but itís not easy either. As a puzzle game, you of course have to figure out how to get from point A to point B. Given that you have few hiding spots and are almost constantly chased by an overweight, wheezing, slime-ball doesnít make this easy. In fact, I had to put my remote down more than once just to breath! Talk about stressful. Perhaps the only fun thing about this level is the fact that you can throw bottles at their head at one point, optional of course, and that youíre able to walk high above them on the rafters like some god. Ha! Take that you wrinkles of blubber. Okay. Maybe that was uncalled for, but in my defense they threw me in the oven. The least they could have done was butter me up first. My rants aside, I still have to admire the design of these Chefs. They are as grotesque as they are supposed to be, with layers of wrinkles, drooping faces, and black beady eyes. That, combined with music that picks up every time your spotted, is enough to put any sane person on edge. Thankfully it is in the Kitchen you deal with them and in the Kitchen they stay. Good puppy.
It isnít in the Kitchen that the obesity stays, however. The mass of the Guests is directly equivalent with the weight of the meaning. In other words, these new enemies arenít just enemies. Theyíre victims to and they deserve our pity! At the very least someone should tell them theyíre about to meet their maker. These very round, wrinkled, and masked monsters arenít just here for sightseeing. They're lured to the Maw for one reason: to be killed. See, told you death was a recurring theme. It isnít just Six who needs to watch her back. These poor suckers are walking--err rolling--to death's door just as quickly. The only difference is theyíre after Six just as much as any other monster found in the Maw. The best way to get through this level is to run! Run for your life! If you can conquer that, you can conquer anything. Even a Nome!
What? Nome!? Werenít they your friends? Yes. Nomeís are friends, not food. Apparently, however, there is this thing thatís called character development where Six needs to change in order for the story to be more interesting. On one hand the creators did a marvelous job with this. On the other hand, they can all go to hell. Those Nomeís didnít do anything to deserve to be Sixís next meal. Horrible. Truly horrible. It is at times like this that I question the morality of the game. But as disturbing as that one scene is, it wasnít bad enough to stop me from playing. If only to see how it ends, I persevered and took Six to the final level: The Ladyís Quarters.
Remember the Lady statues youíre supposed to be smashing? Yeah, fun fact: they represent the final boss and the true evil of the Maw. The Lady is a tall, oppressive, figure that commands the Maw and sends the people to their death. She, in particular, wants you dead. This could be because youíre trying to escape or because youíre disrupting the order of the Maw. Heck, maybe she just loves that bright little raincoat of yours that stands out against the Mawís otherwise gloomy nature. Whatever the case, you have to kill her to finally end things. To do this the creators came up with a very clever little battle scene. You as a player do not have to do much. Just hold a mirror and point it towards the masked Lady. Faced with her image, the Lady will slowly weaken until, in the end, she can no longer hold herself up. Dramatic much? Yeah, but I honestly thoroughly enjoyed this fight. It was the first time Six was able to stand up for herself and actively do something! She wasnít forced to just run, hide, or in the case of the Janitor, improvise. Six stood her ground and with the force of the mirror, destroyed her nightmares!
Or did she? See, the best part about this whole video game wasnít the horror. It wasnít the monsters. It wasnít even the music, although Iím completely in love with the soundtrack. The best part of Little Nightmares was the end, because it wasnít happy. It was just as dark and twisted as the rest of it. Instead of conquering her fears by destroying the Lady, Six devours them. Literally. At battles end the hunger hits, and with no one but the Lady in the room Six goes right for her. Six of course kills her, but more than that, she also takes the powers of the Maw. Thus a new evil is born. With a hunger for death more prevalent than ever, and a power beyond her darkest nightmares, Six ventures out of the Maw--killing everyone in her way as she goes. It's assumed from there that Six will take her hunger and ravage the world. She is evil now, after all. But maybe you have a different opinion. Maybe you think that Six only killed those people because they meant her harm. If that was the case, why hurt the Nome then?
See, in my opinion, the creators didnít make Little Nightmares for the sake of darkness. They wanted to show that even the most innocent creatures will eventually succumb to evil if subjected to it long enough. It sings true to nature and true to reality. The dark themes might have been pushing some moral issues with you, but for me I think they are necessary. You canít paint a harsh reality with rainbows and butterflies and still get the same message across. It just wonít be taken as seriously. Whereas, if you drop a little girl in a bright raincoat into the middle of death, everyoneís head will turn. Take that same little girl and make her evil, the same evil she was running from, and everyone will talk. Itís just a fact of life. The most controversial ideas are the ones that make a bold impression. In Little Nightmares case, itís carved its way into my heart and set up residence. Iím not about to forget about this game anytime soon or the cute little girl in a bright raincoat--no matter how deadly she became in the end.
Forever in love with Little Nightmares,