Over the years, I have had an increasingly strong belief that gaming was not quite what it used to be. I was convinced that the “glory days” of the mid-90’s to early 2000’s had come to an end, for one reason or another. I missed old-school platformers like Banjo-Kazooie. I bemoaned the fact that many of my favorite series had either died off entirely or been reduced to husks of their former selves.
Fortunately, in recent months, I have come to shed these pessimistic sentiments, realizing in the process that such thoughts were, well, ridiculous. Modern gaming is no better, and no worse, than it’s ever been. It’s just different. And that’s actually…a really good thing. I mean, if Yooka-Laylee, a game released earlier this year, has taught me anything, it’s that resurrecting an old style of game that we all used to love is not the way to go. That was then. This is now. Go ahead and enjoy the games of the past (I certainly do), but as far as the future of gaming is concerned, I need to stop focusing on what games USED to be like and instead set my sights on what they ARE today.
The most recent game (among a small collection of others, Undertale and Inside among them) that helped to restore my faith in gaming was Little Nightmares, a delightful little horror game I had long awaited with much enthusiasm. Originally going by the name of Hunger (it makes sense once you’ve played it), I first learned about this game thanks to Hatm0nster’s post on the topic some years back. Being the kind of person who loves spooky things, but hates the gore and/or…devilish elements all too prevalent in the genre (the very reason I couldn’t get into Bendy and the Ink Machine), I was thrilled to see a game being released that would be “atmospherically” creepy without having to resort to, well, the kinds of things I just mentioned.
In case you’re not familiar, you play as a young girl named Six, your goal being to escape from a mysterious place called the Maw. Gameplay consists of puzzles and platforming, with the horror elements coming from a creepy environment and the Maw’s rather grotesque denizens. That blind, long-limbed janitor will haunt me until the end of my days.
On the surface, the game is a pretty enthralling little adventure, with a wonderful art style and a great atmosphere that doesn’t rely on gore or jump scares to make the player uneasy. Even the frightening antagonists of the game manage to be just human enough that they seem like characters (horrifying though they may be) rather than outright monsters. One thing in particular that really interested me was the story. In the same vein as Portal 2, another game whose storytelling I had praised, there are no cut scenes, and the story must be pieced together by the player. Along the way, many questions sprung to mind. Who are the bizarre people we see in the Maw? Why is the world around us so big when Six herself is so tiny? Who is the hanging man? Who is the little girl in the portraits in the lady’s room? What, might I ask, is the true purpose of the Maw? And what the heck happened at the end?
Thus far, the full story of Little Nightmares has yet to receive any real explanation. Plenty of theories, yes, and good ones at that. But nothing concrete. And I can only hope that everything will make a bit more sense once all of the “Secrets of the Maw” DLC have been released come January of 2018. Under most circumstances, I refuse to pay for DLC. In fact, this is the first and only time that I have ever done so. And man, did I pick a good game to break that trend!
You know how everyone hates the tutorial part of a game? Well, I have grown to appreciate any game that doesn’t spoon-feed me the story, either. And I particularly love any game whose story is not so easy to understand and where there is room to theorize and form one’s own ideas about what’s really going on. I first started to really enjoy theorizing thanks to the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. Since then, I have put a great deal of effort into uncovering the truth behind Undertale’s enigmatic W. D. Gaster. And my most recent endeavor…trying to answer my earlier questions concerning Little Nightmares. And let me tell you, it has certainly been fascinating!
Mysteries keep games alive like nothing else can. Once you’ve played through a new game and experienced all that it has to offer, it has a way of feeling a little…dead. At least, that’s how it is for me. Sure, you can play the game again, and that’s fun and all, but it’ll never be the same as that initial playthrough. Take a game like Little Nightmares, however, and there will always be some sense of mystery that will keep it alive in your brain. Unanswered questions that never quite go away. Theories form, allowing us to look at a game’s story and characters in a new light, until new evidence arises that disproves them and reminds us that there is still a riddle to be solved.
As much as I would like for the rest of the “Secrets of the Maw” DLC to shed some light on the story behind Little Nightmares, I do hope that much of the game’s mysteries will remain as such. Once we learn exactly what this game’s all about, there will be a wonderful moment of clarity where everything makes sense. But that is also the very moment when speculation dies, and we can no longer approach this game, or any other whose questions have finally been answered, with any sense of wonderment.
Mysteries keep us thinking and allow us to interpret a story in our own way. Little Nightmares, though short, was an unforgettable experience that I will keep thinking about until the story is finally explained or until I have finally exhausted every theory my fellow fans and I can think of.
Despite some minor annoyances (namely an unclear save system), I would definitely recommend playing Little Nightmares if you enjoy mysteries and horror games that are a bit more…understated, if that makes sense. It is thanks to games such as these that I have become increasingly impressed with what modern gaming has to offer. It’s okay if old-school platformers never regain their former glory. It’s okay if some of my old favorites never have another sequel. If this new age of gaming involves thought-provoking stories and mysteries that will fascinate me for years to come, count me in!
Note: If you’re interested in watching the Duck play through the game (DLC included), why not check out our Youtube channel in the process?
Little Duckmares, We’re Part Duck…Part Mare, Like a Centaur
Screenshot taken by the Duck of Indeed
Post originally published on Virtual Bastion on November 28, 2017