Little Nightmares, a puzzle-platform horror game that confronts players with their childhood fears, was a well-received game on its release this year. Thanks to its chilling atmosphere and the vague world leaving its players to interpret it in their own way, it’s spawned its own comic to further expand the universe. I know, my faithful readers, that you may be questioning, can the vagueness and ability to interpret the world be carried over to a comic when dialogue and word is often a massive part of the media? More so, is this comic worth your time? Before I answer, this review will contain spoilers. Due to the vague nature and the level of interpretation allowed by the comic, I’m going to discuss the story in detail so please note, SPOILERS AHEAD.
Little Nightmares #1 begins with our dear little Six escaping from a horrifying chef with a butcher knife, only to encounter five children sitting around a fire surrounded by darkness. Each child is a different colour except one, who is the same shade of yellow as Six, except with a mummified face. Within the first couple of pages there is already a lot to interpret, a lot of vague information that the readers and fans must decipher and find meaning within. The writing is immediately striking, different from other comics. Far more poetic, it’s use of imagery and a flowing narrative of poetic words paints a consistent yet vague picture.
Six is asked what she has seen and in response we are shown a world filled with bleakness surrounded by monstrous looking people. The only light is Six’s raincoat. Even the light above is dim. The visuals of the game of Six’s journey are continued throughout the first half of the issue, her story retold to us to the children around the campfire. To help Six remember more, the campfire children offer their own stories, the first of which covers the other half of the issue, ‘The Tale of the North Wind.’
The tale involves two children, survivors of the desolation caused by the north wind. They cannot escape it and are always running until they find shelter within a barn, a place warm and safe from the harm of the north wind. The north wind mocks the boy about running and hiding, stating that they are only making it harder on themselves. It asks for them to come out for a moment and then it is revealed that the boy’s sister has been gone for a seemingly long time, dead. A powerful illustration takes up the entire page of a child’s skeleton with rags and untied shoes hovering in the storm as the child asks, ‘When?’ only to criticise the pointlessness of asking such a question.
Before the north wind can take him too, however, a hand is offered from the creature disguised as his sister. It offers shelter for little things to hide away. The boy accepts, leaving the north wind in a rage. When I write a review I often like to discuss as much of the experience I got out of the comic as possible. Often I’ll speak about the story yet the vagueness and poetic writing of Little Nightmares instead lends itself to interpretation so here is my interpretation of the tale. Hopefully the level of thought I’ve put into it will convey the enjoyment I received from the issue. I interpret ‘The Tale of the North Wind’ as a story about loss, and grief, and how a child copes with such a situation when someone close to them dies. The north wind itself is a wind that carries cold and with that cold, death. The wind and cold are inescapable and it will always give chase, except in shelter with warmth. A child does not understand death, so when it takes his sister, he attempts to run and hide from the truth, seeking that same warm shelter that keeps him safe. He pretends she is still there to deal with the grief and when the wind asks the boy to step outside for a moment he is explained the truth by the adult shaped shadow cast by the wind. His sister is dead and gone. He could never protect her, no matter how much he wanted to, and he was always powerless to prevent her passing.
The image of crows is used multiple times throughout the scene, and is a bird often portrayed as the carrier of dead souls, just as the boy’s question ‘When?’ is often asked when someone has passed away, despite the pointlessness of it. The story is vague enough to allow for a wide scope of interpretation but gives just enough clues to piece together a strong narrative. My interpretation is just one of hopefully many, and I’d love to hear any other thoughts out there.
Though the art of the comic does not resemble the game, it does in its own way portray the innocence of childhood, with bright colours for the children and dull tones for everything else around them. The writing and art are truly well put together. Words and art blend to create an unwritten narrative that is just as interesting as any written book out there. It’s also quite risky, as it requires the reader to analyze each page to discover the meaning behind the words and visuals, though with fans of the game being the main readers, they will already be looking out for the symbolism within the story. Little Nightmares is an excellent comic to sit with a cup of tea and pour your attention over. If you like Little Nightmares, or simply stories that have hidden depth to them, I recommend Little Nightmares #1.