Little Nightmares PS4 PlayStation 4 1

Of the many games that were playable on the show-floor at PAX East 2017, Tarsier Studios' Little Nightmares was one of the titles we were most excited to get our hands on. And we were lucky enough to get some time with the game as well as chat with level designer Matthew Compher about some elements of the title announced back in 2014.

For anyone that's been following this game for a while now, you may remember that when it was first announced back in 2014, it went by a different title. Originally revealed as Hunger, the game has changed quite a bit in those few years since announcement, and the involvement of Bandai Namco Europe is just one of them. This was the first thing we discussed with Compher once we got our hands on the puzzle platformer:

"The focus of the game used to be on eating, feeding, that sort of thing. Over time, the focus of the game shifted, and while some elements of this stuck, most of it's gone. The new name makes a lot more sense given what the game has become."

The name to us screams horror, but after spending some time with the title, as well as talking with Compher, this doesn't seem to be the case. He was quick to stress that the game is not a horror title, but rather a suspenseful one. The team wanted to sidestep many of the tropes of the genre, most notably jump scares – a relief if you ask us, as jump scares are tedious and rather annoying.

Compher explained that the game takes place inside a facility called The Maw, which happens to be situated underwater. As such, the camera very subtly rocks along with the motion of water. This was something that registered with us right out of the gate but we mostly ignored it. But the longer you play, the more this motion creeps in, increasing your sense of unease in this twisted and grotesque facility.

While the game itself might not be a horror title there's no shortage of disturbing imagery and settings, which actually was built off of one of Tarsier's previously unreleased games, City of Metronome. Revealed in 2005, City of Metronome ended up laying the groundwork for what would become Little Nightmares in large part due to the style and look of the game. This led to Little Nightmares development kicking off proper in 2013, with a game that was originally just a single room. Then, said Compher, narrative designer Dave Mervik thought of The Maw, and the game rapidly expanded from there.

But as Compher put it, the team wanted to prioritise quality over quantity, and after the game rapidly expanded in scope, it too began to shrink. Tarsier began to trim the fat, removing some of the systems, most notably a whistling mechanic used to herd enemies.

The gameplay was very intriguing from what we played, though, going above and beyond what most platformers tend to do, and we have a feeling this might be because of one of the more surprising influences that Little Nightmares had: LittleBigPlanet. Tarsier Studios worked on the Vita release of LittleBigPlanet it turns out, and Compher relayed that that work in particular was an immense help when it came time to design their current title. We're inclined to agree, as the gameplay and level design felt far more engaging than simply getting from one side of the screen to the other.

Even better, we don't have long to go now before everyone can get their hands on Little Nightmares. It releases in late April, and while April might be jam-packed with releases, this is not one you should let pass by.

Are you already having nightmares over Little Nightmares? Scream internally in the comments section below.