A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Little Nightmares is a dark and creepy downloadable side-scrolling platformer. It stars a little girl who attempts to avoid being captured by the crew of a giant ship and eaten by guests. The girl doesn't fight back against her aggressors (at least not until the very end, when she takes revenge), but players see traces of violence all over the ship, from a bloody guillotine to a pair of chefs who viciously chop into hunks of bloody meat. If she's captured by a hungry guest, she'll be tossed into their mouths as the screen fades to black. The story is clearly an allegory meant to explore the concept and consequences of extreme gluttony, both for those who overindulge and those around them. Six begins the game as a starving victim, but she's turned into something else by the time it ends.
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What's it about?
In LITTLE NIGHTMARES, a macabre side-scrolling platformer, a young girl named Six wakes up in a suitcase on a strange ship called the Maw. Armed only with a lighter to help guide her through the ship's dark innards, she soon discovers that the Maw's crew will give chase and try to capture her should she be seen. Based on the dead bodies of other children she sees in cages -- as well as a bloody kitchen where chefs viciously hack at mysterious hunks of meat -- there's little doubt that being captured will result in her death. The player's only option is to sneak around, ducking under tables and traveling through ducts to avoid the chefs, a monstrous janitor with terrifying arms, and rows of disgustingly greedy guests who never stop eating. Each new environment is a navigational puzzle involving running, jumping, climbing, and stealth that needs to be solved for Six to progress. As she makes her way through the ship, it becomes clear that Six is starving and at times lacks the energy to go on. To survive the terror of the Maw, she may need to resort to more drastic measures.
Is it any good?
If you enjoy dark, metaphorical games such as Limbo and Inside, chances are this eerie platformer will be right up your alley. Little Nightmares' artistic direction is instantly arresting, creating a dark and foreboding world that almost feels as though it were pulled from a stop-motion animated film thanks to its constant attention to detail, sometimes jumpy animation, and occasional diorama-style perspective. And Six is nothing if not sympathetic. She may be tiny and frail, but she's also courageous and determined. You'll desperately want her to survive the nightmare into which she's been dropped. Her enemies, meanwhile, are as horrific as Six is lovable. The janitor's blinded and wrinkled face, stubby legs, and unnaturally long, searching arms make him extremely unsettling, while the bloated forms of the guests -- who will stop at nothing to shove Six into their ravenous mouths, even though piles of food lie all around them -- are mindless gluttony made flesh. The moral of the story couldn't be clearer -- or more effective.
Little Nightmares stumbles occasionally but never fatally. It's controls are a little confusing thanks to odd choices for buttons assigned to running, jumping, and grabbing hold of things. Some of the action scenes -- which require quick reflexes and perhaps rely a little too much on trial and error -- are a bit frustrating if you find yourself repeatedly pressing the wrong buttons. Still, it's a small price to pay for this deeply creepy but equally thoughtful little platformer adventure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about positive character traits. What traits does Six possess that you admire? Does she exhibit any less admirable behaviors?
Talk about being thoughtful and considerate. Little Nightmares shows us what can happen when we focus solely on our own desires, but how might the game have ended differently if even one of Six's aggressors stopped to consider how she must feel?
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