Late to the Game Reviews, Video Game Reviews

Late to the Game: Little Nightmares – Big Presence

Little Nightmares is a side-scrolling horror puzzle game that was released in April of 2017 to critical acclaim. 

I originally passed as I was a little burned out on side scrolling games at the time (I know it’s like 2.5D, but that did not sway me any), and I wanted something a little more lighthearted. 

Also, you know, money. 

I recently picked up a copy so that I could start Little Nightmares II properly, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Though it’s not the longest game (I think It took me about three hours to beat) It managed to pull off a lot. 

So, I know I’m late to the game, but let me fill you in on why you might want to pick up a copy if you haven’t done so within the last three years. 

Enter the Maw

Little Nightmares follows Six, a nine year old girl trapped aboard a large submersible called “The Maw.” Now, the story of Little Nightmares is almost completely implicit, meaning that you’re never specifically told anything. Which can lead to confusion…

However, as you journey through “The Maw” you’ll be able to infer what’s going on. I don’t want to get into specifics, but when looked at as a whole, the game’s story, and world are one of the most terrifying I’ve ever experienced, at least on an existential level. 

What really sets “The Maw” apart from other game settings is the way in which it was stylized. Little Nightmares looks like a Tim Burton stop-motion picture that you control. The characters, the backgrounds, and even the toilets in the bowels of the ship give off the vibe that they might be set pieces from the Nightmare Before Christmas… only actually scary.

I appreciate the fact that even though there is nothing photorealistic about any aspect of the game’s design, I still felt like I ought to be able to reach through my screen and interact with the environment like It was some kind of diorama. Of course, I never would, because honestly this game was unsettling in a way I find hard to describe… but in a good way. 

A Puzzling Adventure

As I said in the intro, this is a puzzle game, so it would follow that the majority of your time is spent solving puzzles. Despite this, the puzzles in Little Nightmares are never obtrusive, as they can often be in similar games. Each one feels necessary to continue not only the individual levels, but the story as a whole. Not once did I stop and wonder why I was doing something; I only know that it had to be done. 

How I get through life

While none of the puzzles, or obstacles, were especially hard, the terrifying antagonists, atmospheric setting, and general diversity of locations kept me engaged throughout. There were a couple of encounters with “The Janitor” (the game’s first real antagonist) that left me stumped, until I finally had an “aha!” moment (which was usually preceded by my wife telling me to stop sucking so hard). 

What really made all the puzzles worthwhile—to me, at least—was how deftly the controls were crafted and how the physics of the game worked. I loved the layout of the controls, the way in which any given action was executed, and how every object in the world had presence and weight. This was all elevated by the way the character motions and controls correlated into actions. I wish every game felt as good to play as Little Nightmares.

Big Dreams

Little Nightmares is an amazing combination of form and function. It manages to tell a horrific, yet intriguing, story without a single word, and it does it well enough that I plan on buying, and playing, every single DLC before playing the second game.

I’m giving Little Nightmares an overwhelming 9/10, but I’m going to do it as far away from “The Maw” as possible. 

It was exactly what it should have been and then some. So, if you’re late to the game, like me, and looking for a short but sweet morsel of gaming, I cannot recommend Little Nightmares enough. 

Video Game Reviews

Resident Evil Village – An Encouraging Fusion

Resident Evil Village is a survival-horror game from Capcom, and is the eighth installment in the long-running Resident Evil franchise.

The game follows Ethan “I’ll block it with my hands” Winters, the protagonist of RE7, as he travels to a remote European village to find his kidnapped daughter. Unfortunately, said village is filled to the brim with vampires, werewolves, actual wolves, and one overly-enthusiastic shopkeep.

No, not that one.

I have long been a fan of the Resident Evil franchise. The first game I ever played on the original Playstation was Resident Evil 2, and Resident Evil 4 is one of my all-time favorite games.

However, with the fifth installment, the franchise started moving in a more action oriented direction, and then completely ran off the rails with 6. In fact, 6 was such a mess that I’d almost written off the series as a whole. 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard brought the series back in the best possible way. It dialed back the action and cranked up the atmosphere and horror. It also introduced some new characters and ideas that really helped to revitalize the franchise in interesting ways.

So, when I heard that 8 was in the works, and that it was going to keep the aesthetic and functionality of 7, I was super pumped.

Village did not disappoint. In fact, it was better than I expected. It did not, however, move the series forward. I mean, it did story-wise, but from a spiritual/technical standpoint, Village actually felt more like…

Resident Evil 7.4 or 4.7… Whichever Makes More Sense

As I said in the opening, Village is about the protagonist of a previous Resident Evil game traveling to a remote European village to rescue someone who’d been kidnapped. Which, if you’ll remember, is the plot of Resident Evil 4

In fact, there are a number of similarities between the two games that have to be more than coincidence. Both games have:

  • A suspicious, yet friendly, teleporting vendor
  • A village filled with infected townsfolk
  • A castle run by a crazy person
  • A big lake monster
  • Sparklies that you shoot to acquire treasure
  • A religious leader who tricked people into thinking they were magic with the use of a Bio-Organic Weapon

I only realized the similarities between the two games when I was about halfway through my first playthrough. I was telling my wife all the reasons I really liked the game. By the time I was through my list of reasons, I realized that I’d said “like Resident Evil 4”  an alarming number of times.

4 managed to walk the line between horror and action very well, so using it as a template for the feel of Village while still maintaining the look and mechanical aspects of 7 was a fantastic choice. The fusion of the two allowed for some bigger action set pieces, while also making sure that the rest of the game felt grounded enough to be scary.

Bump In The Night

There is not a single place in the entire game that feels safe… except for the safe rooms which, you know… are safe.

The rest of the game gives you an overall sense of impending doom, and I attribute this almost entirely to the audio.

My playthrough could be broken down as follows:

  • 20% – shooting unspeakable horrors
  • 5% – inventory tetris
  • 5% – trying to figure out where I was
  • 10% – looking for ammo
  • 5% – running from unkillable monsters
  • 55% – firing wildly at nothing because a twig snapped behind me

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I spent so much time creeping slowly through areas in case something attacked that I actually made the game more unnerving for myself. 

You see, most areas have a number of ambient noises that randomly occur as you make your way through. If you’re walking through the woods, you hear lots of snapping twigs and things running through the underbrush. If you’re in a house, you hear creaks and groans, and if you’re in the castle… Well, you mostly hear Lady Dimitrescu screaming about how dead you’re going to be.

These seemingly innocuous noises, paired with the often subtle soundtrack, increased my paranoia to the point where I sometimes felt more afraid of the noises than of actual enemies.

We all have our priorities.

For example, I could fight an entire group of werewolves and be fine, but walking down an empty stretch of forest with nothing but the sound of rustling leaves and the slow creak of an iron gate in the wind would have my heart racing.

This oppressive feeling is one of my favorite aspects of the game. It really made Village a true horror game in my eyes, as opposed to something like RE5, which was an action game that was occasionally scary. 

Walk. Walk For Your Life

One thing that I really wish they’d tweaked between RE7 and Village is the movement speed. I understand that it was meant to increase tension and give the game a more deliberate feel, but it was honestly frustrating to deal with. 

The walk speed in Village was fine. It was a slow, but reasonable, pace. However, when I hit the “run” button, I felt like I was pressing the “casual jog” button instead.

Now, I’ve never been attacked by monsters, but I can almost guarantee that if I were to run into a goddamn werewolf, I would more than double my walk speed. Ethan, on the other hand, just kinda power-walks.

I assume this is where they got their information

I will say that his lack of urgency did cause me to have panic attacks, because I could hear the things chasing me getting closer, but ultimately it felt downright sluggish.

Ebb and Flow

One thing that Village does very well is making sure you have just enough stuff to survive. I’m not sure if it was based on an algorithm or if the developers were psychic, but somehow I only ever had enough supplies to survive whatever was just ahead.

Sometimes I would find tons of supplies and ammo, and start feeling a little cocky—like, “yeah I don’t even care what they throw at me. Look at all the bullets I have”—only to find myself down to five total bullets moments later. 

There were literally times when I would question if I could continue playing because my resources were so low, and I didn’t know where to get more. 

Then the craziest thing would happen. I would make it through the next section with only those five bullets.

Me, every five seconds.

Then, I’d find six more, and make it through another round of enemies.

I think the game wanted me to feel that helplessness. It wanted me to be at the bottom of a dungeon fighting creature after creature, wondering if I would make it to another box of ammo before I ran out. The fact that Village made me run this razor’s edge the entire game is impressive. 

I mean, what would have happened if I had missed my shots more often? Would I have been out of luck? Would I have had to start over because I was out of ammo? Or would I have braved the entire game using only the knife?

Now that would be scary.

Best Of Both Worlds

Overall, Resident Evil Village was an impressive game. It seamlessly combined elements of two previous installments into a game that had the strengths of both, without their obvious shortcomings (looking at you, RE4 QTE’s). 

The voice acting was spot on, and the graphics were phenomenal. The gameplay, while sluggish at times, was executed well enough. It could have used improvement, especially where movement speed was concerned, but didn’t stop me from enjoying the game.

The story wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping it would be, but interesting characters and a terrifying setting made up for the lacking narrative and made the experience enjoyable throughout.

I’m giving Resident Evil Village a terrifying 8/10 for daring to evoke feelings of RE4 and largely succeeding in the process.

I would also like to…

[twig snaps]