Dualities in Little Nightmares45 min

Little Nightmares is a puzzle game developed by Swedish studio Tarsier Studios, whose soundtrack was written by Swedish composer Tobias Lilja. It is known for its disturbing atmosphere, dark without really being a horror game even if it has some elements typical of this genre, and its mysterious story that we would like to believe metaphorical but which however feels undeniably real ; the game raises many questions without necessarily answering them : this leaves us the choice when it comes to analyzing this strange but somewhat familiar world.
It’s a platform puzzle game in 2.5D with mainly a stealth dimension, or, as the developers say, hide and seek ; Little Nightmares is essentially about escaping from objects, creatures or characters that are prompt to kill us in brutal and violent ways : each monster has their favorite weapon, and sometimes, this weapon is a very hot oven.

So we follow the slow ascent of Six, a litle girl (almost) alone in the hold of a boat, the Maw, until she arrives in what seems to be a very strange restaurant, run by a mysterious masked lady, the Lady (at least that’s logical).
It’s a very beautiful video game, which manages to go beyond the physical or moral monstrosity of its characters by giving the heroine splendid scenes and shots which, for me, underline the way she gradually gains control over her condition (an apparent imprisonment or at least abandonment), and how she conquers a strange form of freedom. Little Nightmares struck me by the way it uses contrasts to emphasize the duality of Six’s fate : the game ends on a strange and paradoxical sequence in which the heroine, finally free, seems to be controlled by a dark force she gains from the Lady, and the game masterfully announces the duality of this ending by the way it artistically plays on opposites.

Distance and immersion

A setting

The first element, what jumped out at me when I started the game, is the mix between immersion and a very strong distancing effect. The distancing effect is an artistic technique, specific to theater – more precisely, it’s actually specific to Berthold Brecht’s theater – which aims, as its name indicates, to make the distance between the spectator and the work they’re watching explicit, to avoid too much immersion, an identification with the hero (rather associated with ancient tragedy’s catharsis), by reminding them that what they’re watching is a creation, something that isn’t real.
Little Nightmares manages to unify some aspects of the distancing effect with the immersive nature of its atmosphere.

Indeed, the whole game is a succession of rooms from which you have to escape, either by a “classic” puzzle (you have to find what to do, where to go), or, most often, in a “hide and seek” way : you have to escape from creatures (leeches for example) or monsters which you can’t always see : danger is almost everywhere.

Everything’s fiiiiiiiiine

The game’s progression is therefore relatively linear, in any case often limited to two dimensions, most of the time even only one, the horizontal, and the game’s setting, a gigantic boat, underlines the omnipresence of this dimension. But above all, the boat’s hull seems to be cut, allowing us to see through it, and we feel like we’re in a real theater set : we can clearly see the frame of the rooms and each time there’s an invisible, impassable fourth wall, like a stage from which we cannot fall.

In the first DLC, which essentially takes place in the Maw’s hold, this effect is accentuated by the water : the boat’s hull seems to be cut, but the water does not flow.

We can also see the adjacent rooms according to the camera angle (which we wouldn’t be able to do normally, since the doors are closed and the rotation of the camera is subjective : we control the rotation of Six’s head). Even better, it seems as if the action is actually taking place in a diorama (or, as we see after the DLCs’ credits, a television), as if we (or rather, Six) were constantly observed not only by the characters or objects in the game but also by the viewer/player. The game reminds us that we are playing, it really creates a distancing effect.

This distance is also created by the objects, insignificant (slippers, toilet paper rolls, simple furniture) but much bigger than the playable character : Six is small, too small, because even if she’s just a child, the objects appear disproportionate (the slippers for instance). They will become more and more so as the story unfolds, with pools of shoes, endless bookcases, mountains of dishes. The boat, when we finally discover it, has extravagant dimensions, monstrous, one might say. Even the objects supposedly intended for children are too big for her : the cubes are about as big as her head.

So it seems that Six is a doll in a setting and that she is being observed, an effect that is reinforced by the choice of a third-person gameplay, but essentially from the side (since there’s a focus on the horizontal dimension) : when the player moves the camera, it looks like they enter this diorama and turn her head. Moreover, the playable character, whether it is Six or the Runaway Kid in the DLC, has sometimes the appearance of a doll, since their measurements aren’t quite realistic and their face looks like it’s made of wax :

Finally, this theatrical aspect is reinforced by the game’s division ; the adventure is very structured and takes place in five sequences : the Prison, the Lair, the Kitchen, the Guest Area, the Lady’s Quarters, like the five acts of a play. Each sequence has a different setting (a succession of rooms) with a unity of gameplay.

The game follows the classical unities, the three unities : the unity of place (everything takes place in the Maw), the unity of time (the whole game takes a few hours, so everything is settled in one day, there is almost no ellipsis in the narration, only between the fourth and fifth sequences) and the unity of action (Six must escape).

Never a spectator

Despite this theatricality, the gameplay is at the same time very immersive : tutorials (a simple line indicating a control) are rare and – let’s be honest – not always triggered. Apart from these few particular mechanics, nothing is mentioned.

The camera is also very realistic because it is completely connected to the little girl : it is really limited to Six’s field of vision, when she turns her head ; we can’t see that much, and if an object blocks our view, well, too bad !
Moreover, all along Six’s journey we are immersed in her emotions (though unreadable since her face is hidden) with her heartbeats we can both hear in the game and feel through the controller’s vibrations.

Moreover, there is very little non diegetic music, we are often bathed in silence, punctuated by realistic sound effects when we move objects or turn on a television visibly more possessed than a guitar solo from Ridiculon (but I like Ridiculon’s possessed guitar solos). It’s a relative silence since the sound design is very realistic : in addition to noises from Six’s interactions with the setting (like when she drags an object), the boat’s atmosphere is oppressing with its machinery noises sometimes mixed with the whistling of the wind, and waterdrops that punctuate our progression. Plumber, please !

However, there is non diegetic music which mostly follows the game’s mechanics ; essentially it appears to signal danger and disappears when we are out of danger (for the moment) : some characters have movement cycles and we can escape them even if they see us ; after a while they give up and resume their cycle, the music therefore has an informative function.

The music fits very well into the game since it seems to use sounds from the diegesis (the game’s universe), but aestheticized : in Six’s theme part 1, we can hear what could be sounds of creaking doors, in the Janitor’s theme (The Janitor awaits) there’s the wind (but it doesn’t sound like natural wind), and the metal cages he’s pulling (because, you know, everyone needs a hobby) ; A feeling for meat is also very interesting because the percussion recreate the pursuer’s heavy steps or sometimes almost grunts – steps all the more aestheticized that their rhythm is too regular, which suggests that said pursuers won’t fail to catch us.
The Death Waltz, which we only hear during the credits, almost sounds like it’s played on kitchen utensils and especially brings out at the beginning a strange, distorted singing, not so much in the sound of the voice itself as in the vowels used and their transitions. The beginning of New Arrivals, finally, sounds like a foghorn.

The sound design is well done too, just like the very first sound effect : even before starting the game, this duality between immersion and distance is there when the game asks us to press a key ; at this very moment a first sound is triggered, immersing us immediately in the work’s enclosed universe while creating a distance, reminding us that it is a game, since an action on our part is necessary.

We are involved almost to the end, as the game has very few cutscenes and wants us to be completely immersed in Six’s adventure, when we climb the boat’s anchor chain for instance, or even when Six has defeated the Lady, goes back to the dining area and moves forward, killing the guests one after the other without doing anything, stealing their lives in a way, whereas during the game we often feel powerless, at the mercy of the Maw’s monsters : it’s only an impression. This can be contrasted with Inmost, in which the many final cutscenes leave us devastated and helpless, watching the end of the game and the terrible story that is revealed before our eyes : there is nothing we can do while in Little Nightmares, it is only for the very last steps of this great staircase, bathed in a blinding light, that Six finally moves without us.

A world between nightmare and reality

The title indicates another duality : Little Nightmares. Nightmares, but taken somewhat lightly, without consequences, it seems. And indeed, we’re like in a dream. The physics in particular : when Six jumps, she gains little height and has a very low speed. She walks slowly and the sprint is very relative, it starts only after a few frames. Besides the fact that Six is very small, this reminds me of dream physics, often strange (I have a lot of trouble moving in dreams, don’t you ?). This physics will emphasize the danger, since many times we will narrowly escape from enemies, especially in the chapter conclusions, brilliantly shown as achievements even though we cannot attack.

A dream within a dream?

Yet it would seem that Six is lucid, since at the beginning of the adventure she wakes up from a nightmare, a dark vision of the Lady, while in the DLC the playable character, the Runaway Kid, wakes up with a start in his bed at the orphanage after dreaming of the monster luring him underwater. After each death, always “nightmarish” (as you wish, petrified by an Eye, neck broken by the Janitor’s delicately animated fingers, roasted by one of the Twin Chefs, swallowed by the Guests, strangled at a distance by the Lady…) we find ourselves at the last checkpoint, slowly waking up as if what had preceded (our death) was only a dream – a nightmare : the line between dream and reality is very thin, which reinforces this first opposition I mentioned, the mix of immersion and distance in the game.

These nightmares are “classic” fears : the monster (which appears in several forms, visible and invisible), death (extravagant), abandonment by what seems to be an orphanage. But these fears are so usual, expected, that they become less significant, in the sense that it does not really appear as a horror game : we may fear death (well, one of the Guests ate me again !), but there is rarely any surprise because we quickly become constantly on our guard : there’s more emphasis on the story itself.

Monsters are mostly grotesque, they’re excessive (the masked cook who wants to roast us, the guests…). Some effects are very predictable, like the music (a child – Six – who’s humming, the music box) but it never falls into irony, because the game sublimates these typical elements.

The mask

Another element specific to the dream is the difficulty of seeing faces. The heroine’s face is hidden by her large yellow hood (like in the famous tale, Little Yellow Riding Hood… what do you mean ?), in the DLC the hero’s face is never clearly visible, nor are the faces of the other children, whether they are locked up or trying to escape like us.

This is part of a more general element of the game, which is the importance of masks : characters and monsters are often masked :

The Twin Chefs wear masks showing an already deformed face but we don’t know what’s worse underneath, and of course the Lady is masked. Lots of broken mirrors in her house, but I’m sure that’s just an unfortunate coincidence and that she has no problem with her image.

The Lady’s simply very clumsy, don’t overthink it…

However, the game seems to clear up the mystery at the very end of the last DLC and we see the Lady’s face ; yet apparently this would not be her real face but her perception of it – nothing is really certain, but we can see another face on the character’s sheet :

As for the Janitor, it’s slightly different : what I took for a kind of bandage turns out to be the skin of the top of his face sagging down, revealing a large part of his skull. Yes, yes. Enjoy your meal.

The same image one more time, he’s just so cute, right ?

This also refers to fear : the creatures are all the more frightening when we can’t see their faces, like the one in the room full of shoes (of which we only see the movement when the shoes fly, never the body or the face) or at the beginning of the first DLC, at the bottom of the boat : not knowing anything makes us fear the worst.

Shoes like to fly sometimes, you know. No problem here.

However, of all the characters in the game, Six, whose face is the least visible, has the strongest personality, both in her design and in her way of dealing with the boat, while the guests, for example, are all represented in a similar way, like an archetype : there are only four different faces.

Graphics

The art style mixes realistic aspects and exaggerations. The place is a priori realistic (a boat), but already its dimensions are monstrous ; we only see it from the inside at first, but we are quickly suggested its dimensions : after dropping an object, it takes several seconds to hear the sound of the impact on the ground.

It is filled with quite mundane objects and presented in a rather realistic style but still with just the right amount of excess to once again create distance : the walls of cages, the piles of books, the towers of plates (it’s quite hyperbolic, which reminds me of Sylvain Chomet’s art style in The Triplets of Belleville, heavily influenced by Nicolas de Crécy) ; the objects are for some deformed (the cooks’ beds for example, too narrow) ; it looks quite “rounded”, as if sometimes they were made of modeling clay, underlining the fact that it looks like a theater (or movie) set.

The rooms are similarly classical, with some strange details : the little merry-go-round in the child’s room (it’s more of an outdoor object, but here, outdoor… well it’s the sea ; enough to make you even more seasick). Moreover, we can wonder why there’s this kid’s room : we start in what seems to be an orphanage (we see children behind bars, in beds, watched by the Janitor and giant mechanical eyes which petrify you as soon as they spot you : we see several petrified children in the field of vision of these eyes).

The library is also strange, especially its suspended piano (“well, everyone has that, a suspended piano” ah well). Not to mention the hanging armchairs, rather anxiety-provoking in my case because they can fall down (methinks) and remind us of the hanging man, at the beginning, who seems surprisingly tall (his legs are out of proportion, in response to the Janitor whose arms just don’t stop).

Six herself mixes these two aspects : we only see her body, her face being hidden by her hood (but her cute little canary yellow raincoat is enough to make her recognizable in a place with an often dull graphic palette – except for light effects : another contrast, in a dark game, there’s a lot of attention given to the light – even more so in the second game of the Little Nightmares franchise, where the light effects are virtuosic, from what I’ve seen), and this one is realistic but again some effects are exacerbated : she is far too skinny and far too small, and only has her lighter’s the little flame to light her way.

On the other hand, the animation is very nice : when she walks more slowly, especially when she walks on a board, high up and that you have to be careful, she starts with the tip of her toes (well, she literally tiptoes then !) ; when she is near a wall, she puts her hand flat on it as if to keep her balance.

But when she’s running, there’s this slightly strange physics, as if each step were a real effort, which fits well with this unreal atmosphere, where the distinction between dream and reality is very blurred : it also seems like each step is an independent entity that is not totally connected to the previous one or the next one ; it’s almost impercertible, but that’s the impression I get, and it works very well with the work’s atmosphere.

Lastly, the way none of the playable characters can sprint indefinitely is quite realistic : after a while they get out of breath and run more slowly.

From escape to some form of attack

Six does not attack. She escapes from enemies : she has no way to kill anything, she can only run, hide, escape. However, there is a gradation in the way she is shown when facing enemies.

This evolution is marked by disconcerting scenes during which Six suddenly gets hungry, writhing in pain. The first time, another child gives her bread : she is helped and accepts the help. Then, when she has left the prison and no one can help her anymore, she eats meat that’s in a trap, raw meat intended for rats. Yummy. There is an evolution since she is not helped anymore (she will not meet any more children like her afterwards), but that puts her in danger since she is then locked up in a small cage by the Janitor.

After that, the third time she eats the rat itself, as if she was cornered : she cannot go any lower, but at the same time she starts gaining power, until the moment when she attacks the nome (whereas she was saving them until then, hugging them) : Six, little by little possessed by the evil power of the Maw, reproduces the attack she experienced during the whole act, when the Guests hurled themselves at her, who is alive, even though they were sitting in front of literal mountains of food. Seeing the little nome offering her food, she flings herself at him and devours him. Is it repulsion for the help they offer her ? Is it a force that takes possession of her and makes her, in turn, desire for food that is still alive ?

This power she’s gradually getting is also seen in the interactions with the bosses. Six has to find her way around the ship. We don’t know why she’s there, but one thing is sure, she has to escape and run away from these monsters : we understand as the game goes on that all humans are eaten… which Six will do later on.

At the beginning she escapes from objects, creatures : the mechanical eyes, the leeches. The first boss is a turning point : while trying to escape him she ends up cutting his arms, but not directly – a door falls on the Janitor’s long limbs.

The two cooks are spared, but Six’s escape is interesting : they are always shown as unable to catch her, in the kitchen because of their corpulence (they can’t bend), and then when she escapes by almost flying over the kitchen, although she doesn’t do anything I think this shot masterfully shows her superiority, while they try in vain to grab the little girl. Tiny but smart, she makes the ship (yet almost an antagonist by itself) an ally.

It is this same feeling of power, of superiority, that I find in the scene of the guests’ arrival, which coincides with her exit from the boat : she is bathed in light and turns towards this endless line of guests, who seem to come out of one gaping mouth and enter another even more gaping one, with this chain (the anchor chain) in the middle ; the boat is at a standstill, the cooks are preparing these meals for them, without interruption (probably one cooks while the other sleeps, and vice versa, sometimes they work together).

This chain, symbol of imprisonment, allows her to enjoy freedom for a little while, but she must go to the upper deck (she cannot go into the ocean).

She climbs the chain, then the ladder ; the camera zooms out to make us fully aware of the dimensions of this Maw whose gaping mouth we finally discover, then zooms in on Six again ; finally we see her walking on a beam, she is above the guests, the focus is on her (the guests are very blurred in the background, then a little less so, but it is indeed on Six that the focus is made), she is alone while they are piled up (and they are enslaved : they are invited only to be fattened), she is in control of her movements while they seem chained (there are too many of them to turn back).

The beauty of this long scene lies also in the graphic palette : inside the boat, the light is essentially blue, sometimes almost white ; yet Six is a small yellow spot (yellow and blue being complementary colors) which finally finds a similar light outside the boat, always shown in a very yellow light, almost blinding, artificial, as if to show that Six has to escape, that she belongs to the outside world.

This is also the only moment when we see the Maw, its shape, its entrance like the mouth of a beast, which contrasts with the linearity of the rooms : this is no ordinary boat. However, it can be seen in the game, on a picture in the Lady’s Quarters, or at the end of the last DLC, when what looks like a globe is in fact a model of the Maw : without seing the Maw’s chimney when going outside the boat, we can still understand that this is where Six is standing in the post-credits scene. The cooks’ fireplace is shaped like the Maw’s entrance, as is one of the Twin Chefs’ mouth. Note the mise en abyme in the first image : in the fireplace there is the open eye with the very small but very visible pupil below, like an open mouth in another, and so on. The game conditioned us to this image, which becomes a reality with the temporary exit of Six at the end of this sequence.

When facing the Lady, Six attacks from a distance, with a mirror, she only reflects her image back to her, but she doesn’t run away anymore, moreover this sequence is very simple (you just have to walk slowly behind the Lady when she is combing her hair in front of her trusty broken mirror, there is very little placement to do) and breaking the vase does not trigger a chase : it’s a welcome change in the gameplay’s rhythm. However there’s an evolution because Six knowingly takes advantage of the Lady’s weakness.

From imprisonment to freedom

Six wakes up at the bottom of the Maw, on a suitcase (probably hers, we can see some pictures inside : without being able to see what’s on these pictures, it’s an efficient way to show that Six has a past, things, people that are dear to her : we immediately wonder where she comes from and why she’s here, how she could have gotten here).

She finds herself in a boat that looks like an orphanage at first (in the game, this area is called the prison), precisely built to prevent children from running away : the dimensions are vertiginous (the sheet that Six uses to climb up to an opening and left there by a little girl a few moments before (we witness this scene in the first DLC) is huge), the beds very big.

Above all the doors are impossible to open because the handles are too high : it’s a world made for adults, in any case, made by adults to prevent children from escaping, even from moving.

The large stairs (like those from the menu screen) also remind us of Spirited Away, especially Yubaba’s bath house where nothing is adapted to the size of Chihiro, who struggles to do the slightest action there : to access the boiler room, Chihiro falls down a huge staircase that runs along one of the walls of the bath house (there are many references to that movie).

It’s the opposite at the end of the game, when the heroine seems to have complete control of the Maw : we don’t see her operate the lever of the elevator to return to the dining area and the last door opens by itself while during the adventure we had to use various techniques to be able to open these doors.

And especially there’s this post-credits scene, where the heroine is freed from all the antagonists, but alone, in the middle of the sea, on this strange floating island…

…which turns out to be the top of the Maw. The Maw is underwater, as if Six had devoured it (but we see a picture of this chimney in the Lady’s Quarters, which implies that the Maw can be submerged, perhaps even regularly). The Maw has sunk with all its occupants and Six is now free. But what will she do now ? Does she control the force she has drawn from the Lady, or is that same force controlling her ?

Dimensions

Little Nightmares is a 3D game : the characters and the scenery are modeled in 3D, but the puzzles don’t really use three dimensions, they’re more like 2.5D. This is rather interesting for a game dealing with imprisonment : the level design alternates between moments where Six can’t do much but she’s safe (mostly when she crawls into small pipes, those transition zones are quite welcome), and others where she is not hindered in any way, and two or three dimensions can be explored but she’s in danger (or we feel in danger) : being limited to one dimension no longer means imprisonment but rather a kind of safety, whereas being able to move freely mostly means danger.

The fact that our movements are limited emphasizes the moments when they’re not : when you can explore the setting’s background and find a statuette, or when you escape from the cooks by walking on the wooden boards under the ceiling, it is very pretty and allows to vary with a lot of finesse the gameplay, which is certainly similar in the different areas, but with precisely this kind of element in order to regularly bring a new light to it.

Sometimes there is even only one dimension, but the game plays on two planes (when you are below the floor, for example when the cooks are washing the dishes or when the Janitor goes from one room to another).

Void and abundance

Why is Six here ? Where do the children from the orphanage come from ? Why are the guests killed ? At the end of the game, we know nothing more. Why is Six now controlled by this force that she seems to have taken from the Lady ? We could go on like this for quite some time. Many questions, few answers.

Yet the game takes the time to explain some elements through its DLCs : they follow the escape of a little boy (his story’s timeline is close to Six’s adventure’s, but a different story although he meets the same characters and the questions his presence raises are similar ; we meet the same characters as Six (he already wakes up in one of the beds of the orphanage, with a broken chain on his ankle), he meets another child at the very beginning : she’s the one who makes and installs the sheet ladder that we climb in the game ; we also cross Six’s adventure since we are the character locked in a cage at the same time as Six, victim of the first monster, which then “mummifies” us in a sheet from which we manage to escape.

In the game, nothing is said about the Maw. The only narration is suggested in the setting, the puzzles and some rare cutscenes (can we really talk about cutscenes, by the way ?). No narrator, no dialogue, no endless logbook à la Myst (Myst is a bit like “We had so many problems in the different Ages I wrote, that I decided to write another one!”, good idea, Atrus, very good idea ; look at your sons, it’s worked out really well for them, even your daughter talks to me in a very passive-agressive way).

The official website provides some elements, notably on the supposed balance of the Maw. We’re told that Six’s escape would break the Maw’s balance (maybe it’s mentioned in the Very Little Nightmares comic and mobile game, I’ll probably look into it). An almost bottomless Maw, like a Danaïdes’ Barrel that we try to fill this time with food, worse, with corpses. A Maw full of creatures and things that empty you, precisely : leeches, petrifying eyes. A Maw where there’s excess next to emptiness, a Maw whose precarious balance could be illustrated by the boat’s physics, constantly in slight imbalance as it tilts : objects roll on the ground.

This emptiness is illustrated in the music, which often combines opposites, from very low and heavy tones (brass, bass clarinet), to high tones (the music box for example), with few frequencies in between. The pulse also oscillates, sometimes there’s almost none, sometimes it’s relentless : Lure of the Maw is guided by a uniform rhythm from beginning to end without ever stopping, supported by chords that certainly diminish naturally, but seem to be “maintained” because another instrument (the piano ?) re-attacks, creating the illusion that these chords are themselves re-attacked, it’s almost obsessive, like a boat that pitches and as a way to show control in the music, like people in the Maw seems to be controlled as well.
We also find this relentless pulsation when the Lady sings, scrupulously following the ticking of the clock, as if she herself were controlled, since we don’t know how the dark force Six gets from her works.

This duality is unified as Six advances into the guest room, after she has killed the Lady : the childish voices (faster than in the first part of Six’s theme, more confident, almost mischievous now) make the transition from low to high frequencies, from the brass instruments to the music box’s crystalline sound ; as Six moves forward and empties the guests of their substance, the brass becomes heavier, in a struggle with the voices, which in turn sing louder. The big brass chords we hear at the end (in the soundtrack but not in the game) are like clusters, but we can recognize the arpeggios from Lure of the Maw here completely crashed.

Could it be that the Maw has triumphed anyway, that it has taken possession of Six ? Would she in turn be host to the strength of the insatiable beast ? Yet in the game, this long advance and ascent of the stairs ends with Six “taming” the brass instruments, while the nomes remain in the Maw and watch Six disappear into the light.

Narration to unify

And it is especially masterful that all these contrasts are unified by the narration, given by the gameplay itself, without a word, yet telling the entirety of Six’s journey, her transformation, from the holds of the Maw to its chimney. But if the heroine of the main game gets away with it, during the three DLCs I thought that, given all these oppositions, the Runaway Kid would not end up alive ; indeed, the timeline of the Runaway’s adventure is, as I said, parallel to Six’s ; yet Six kills the Lady, she devours her, which leads to the Maw’s being submerged again. Since the Lady can’t be killed twice, I expected the little hero to die at the end of the DLC ; but I didn’t imagine his metamorphosis into a nome, and even worse, this last shot which may seem insignificant out of context but is actually masterful when you play the game :

You remember, don’t you ?

It’s a beautiful return to the theatrical aspect of the game, with which I had opened the article, because it’s a perfect illustration of double enunciation : the player knows what the little nome doesn’t, as the spectator of a play knows what some characters don’t. After several hours immersed in the Maw, playing as the Runaway Kid, the game thus reverts to theatricality thanks to this last cutscene (it is interesting to note that we have no control over the DLCs’ playable character at this point as his fate is sealed since we saw him die in the base game), by this single shot, as we hear the Lady’s calm humming (she’s still alive) join and tame the plaintive voices of these little forgotten children.

Everything is meticulously orchestrated, since not only do we spend several hours in the shoes, well, the feet, of the Runaway Kid, but especially the second DLC puts these little nomes in the spotlight : forced to work for the Maw, we gradually guess their true character, by their need to be cuddled before trusting us, their drawings of the Maw’s creatures (the Eyes, the Janitor and Six) and their shadow, always that of a child, which we see in this very moving, almost solemn scene where the nomes are gathered around the fire.

It is very poignant because thanks to some exploration, we could see in the base game that some nomes could unfortunately perish, lost, at the mercy of the Maw’s various inhabitants.

When the Runaway Kid becomes a nome, he hasn’t yet gotten used to running away first and trusting later, and doesn’t notice his fellow nomes running away while nearby Six is struggling against of one of her terrible fits of hunger. The game doesn’t need to show this because the player, when they see the room where the nome arrives, know it.
Only Six can escape the Maw…

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