I recall one particularly stressful dream, which involved a tyrannosaurus rex - bright pink, as if it had been skinned alive - trying to eat me through my bedroom window. It smashed its snarling head and maw through the glass, as I cowered beneath my bed... before, of course, a UFO appeared, picked up the house in a cone of light, and started spinning it around faster and faster and faster and faster and faster...
A few years later, three workmen came to the house to install a new water tank in the loft. I'd only seen two leave. In my dreams that night, the third man emerged from the loft hatch with a knife, and crept into my bedroom.
I trembled beneath the sheets as he approached, reaching out for me with his free hand... and the second he snatched back the covers, I woke up with a scream, like what people do in films and that.
In the terrifying nightmare I had a few nights ago, I was heading off on holiday when I realised at the airport that I'd forgotten my contact lenses. After I woke, it bothered me for the entire day.
Fortunately, Little Nightmares leans more towards the former sorts of nightmare...
Little Nightmares is one of those gorgeous indie physics-based 2D (or in this case 2.5D) platform games that they have nowadays.
You know the sort: your young and vulnerable protagonist has to make their way through a terrifying Tim Burton-esque fantasy world, where things writhe and shift in the shadows.
Survival in these games is typically more about pushing or pulling objects, using the world as a resource, in a bid to avoid dying in any number of hideous ways, than any gathering of loose change or golden tings.
This is what we consider entertainment nowadays; watching a feeble child plummet to their death, or be electrocuted, or - in the case of Little Nightmares - be chased by corpulent, cleaver-wielding, butchers.
What does it say about us? WHAT DOES IT SAY?!
It says, I suspect, that we all have a child inside us, who feels vulnerable and scared by the leering, adult world into which we're thrust, utterly unprepared, before spending the rest of our lives wondering how much longer until we screw up, or are exposed, and judged. Everybody else seems so together, so composed, like they got the rulebook and we didn't... why did nobody tell us the rules!?? WHY?!
Or - y'know - something.
As you progress in Little Nightmares, the true horror of where you are slowly becomes revealed - along with its bloated inhabitants. Then Little Nightmares becomes a game of cat-and-mouse, as you attempt to make your way through areas without being spotted.
What really sets the game apart from others of its ilk is scale.
You see, it feels like cat-and-mouse in more ways than one; your protagonist, Six, is much smaller than most of what lives in the world. The areas you pass through are oversized vignettes, glimpses of what goes on in the place you've found yourself.
This also affects how you interact with the world - hiding where your pursuers can't hope to follow, or clambering up adult-size objects. At points, the platforming and puzzling give way to chase sequences through locations that tower above you - again, like something out of a twisted episode of Tom & Jerry.
Little Nightmares is effective and evocative, but I hesitate to say that it's fun.
The mood is relentlessly dour and bleak, though at least that grimness doesn't extend to the puzzles - which feel balanced just the right side of about-to-give-up-and-do-something-else frustrating. This does mean that the life of the game hasn't been artificially extended by ramping up the difficulty - and it's likely you'll finish the whole thing in just a few hours (though it is priced accordingly).
If I do have a complaint, it's that there's a risk of Little Nightmares feeling a bit cliche. That's possibly a bit mean, given that it's an extremely good-looking, polished, and gripping game - but it does feel indicative of a trend that's fast becoming predictable. If you want you could trace its origins right back to Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, with a dash of Another World.
For me, a similar game that was more effective - just because it was so different on an aesthetic and thematic level at least - was EA's Unravel. It's a bit weird how we've ended up with small-child-in-nightmare-world as the new anthropomorphic-animal-with-attiude.
Nevertheless, it's hard to find real fault in Little Nightmares, either aesthetically or structurally. In terms of a two-word pitch, Little Nightmares delivers horribly.
SUMMARY: A brief, incredibly atmospheric, manifestation of every adult's inner turmoil.
SCORE: Night out of Mare.