The first of 3 chapters scheduled to launch over the coming months, The Depths looks to expand on and further explore Little Nightmares submerged and oppressive world, The Maw. Steering away from the little yellow mac wearing heroine of the base game, Little Nightmares: Secrets of the Maw expansion focuses its spotlight on another young inhabitant of this underwater prison and nameless male protagonist seeking to escape the same Burton-esque setting. Whilst the beautiful art style and repressed theme that served the game so well when it released in April return for what is a decidedly short experience, The Depths plunges players into previously unencountered environments that will have them braving the waters against an entirely new threat.
Little Nightmares: The Depths: PC, Xbox One, PS4 [Reviewed]
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release Date: 7 July 2017
Individual Price: £3.19 | Secrets of the Maw Expansion £7.99 (Base game required) [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Visually familiar, The Depths offers the player early hope as the nameless boy briefly backtracks through Six’s tiny footsteps following the lead of a helpful yet unknown accomplice in a joint bid to escape The Maw. As enjoyable as the idea of a cooperative ally in these depressed times is, it diminishes all too quickly as the pair are separated and the young boy is once again alone, left to fend for himself and faced with the prospect of a jumping blindly into a dark hole as Little Nightmares invites players to once again burrow back down the rabbit hole where they will be confronted with Secrets of the Maw‘s very nervy and tension filled first chapter.
With that early hope of a dual escape now a distant memory, the unnamed protagonist in a bright blue jumper is introduced to the chapters underwater setting and its villain, the Granny. When Little Nightmares released, it fed players a collection of ghoulish yet truly memorable antagonists that would have you concerned for your safety long after you’d escaped their persistent clutches. Looking to add its name to Little Nightmares rogue’s gallery is the Granny, an enemy that lurks beneath the surface of the murky waters in the bowels of The Maw waiting to grab the player character.
Frankly, as challenging or annoying as the Granny is (depending on your view), I didn’t see nearly enough of the character barring a single full glimpse or her hand reaching out of the water over and over throughout the hour long traipse to rank her alongside the more demanding threats of the Caretaker or the Twin Chefs. However, for the very purpose of The Depths, the Granny performs her job well; remaining a constant threat, an adversary with an overwhelming appetite to drag the boy under the water at every juncture.
Anticipating every mistimed jump as the player looks to safely negate various floating sanctuaries to reach solid ground, the Granny patiently lies in wait, longing to capitalise on the player’s misfortunes with speed and precision before dragging the poor boy to the depths below and back to a previous checkpoint. With the majority of the chapter forcing the player to move from platform to platform, swim fast or wade in the dark waters, timing is always going to be key.
Knowing when to make a break for the next floating barrel or suitcase could make all of the difference when it comes to successfully escaping a mini battle or enduring the frustration of having to relive the same sequence over again. Alternatively, moments will arise at various points in the chapter where the player has the option to distract its pursuer with a piece of fish thrown away from the player’s destination, buying the character a little extra time to make a more timely escape. Overall, the Granny’s inclusion makes for some extremely nervy moments but unlike the previously encountered enemies upstairs, the Granny doesn’t quite achieve the same level of impact as a pair of portly Cook’s achieved by simply chasing Six across kitchen floor tiles like a tasty entree before the main meal.
Sandwiched (pardon the pun) between chase scenes with the Granny, The Depths lists its very own set of puzzles in an attempt to halt player progress. Sadly though, they have a distinct lack originality about them with the majority on offer strikingly reminiscent of Little Nightmares questions. Arguably tougher at times to work through than that of the base game, The Depths puzzles are simple by design but trickier to get by, perhaps a decision by Tarsier to counter the shortage of content on offer with such a small chapter. Even so, I found them to be more troubling than many of Little Nightmares puzzles, which is a positive aspect for someone looking for more of a challenge in what is such a short space of time.
When not attempting to avoid a horrid black worm to retrieve a key from a shattered pot, electrical water puzzles are the most prominent of the new puzzles featured in The Depths. Avoiding electrocution, these puzzles will force the player to work a way around the area without touching the water.
For example, the player will come across numerous suitcases, which will need to be arranged in place inside a pool of electrified water. This can be achieved by first lowering the water level to safely climb into the shallows to pull or push the items into position before returning to raise the water level again in order to hop over the suitcases and pass to the next area. Other puzzles though feel far more familiar such as the player racing to reach a fast shutting door before it closes again or swinging from one area to another using a hook.
Although The Depths fails to make the impact Little Nightmares did back in April it isn’t without its likeable qualities. Like each of Little Nightmares chapters, the first chapter of 3 is a short and whimsical adventure that introduces us to a new lonesome character looking to escape the confines of The Maw like heroine Six before him, while adding further lore to the wonderfully bizarre and gorgeously dull setting the game takes place in. Though far from a remarkable start when compared to the high standards set by Tarsier and Little Nightmares, The Depths does achieve at setting the scene for future chapters to come.