In the spirit of Limbo and Inside came Little Nightmares, an indie horror platformer/puzzle game that come out this year. It was a fantastically creepy ride from start to finish and one of my favorite games of the year. With the release of a comic book meant to expand on the game, I just had to check it out. Is it good?
Writer: John Shackleford
Artist: Aaron Alexovich
Publisher: Titan Comics
Having experienced Little Nightmares in its entirety, even watching several Let’s Plays to get other people’s reactions, I went into this comic with high hopes. Story wise, our tale is about Six running into a group of kids who are in similar situations as her, just trying to survive in The Maw, our setting. Six is implied to be having memory problems, so one of the kids tells her about his own story and how he got here in the first place. If you came into the comic expecting answers on what happened in the game, you won’t find them here. It’s more about building up the universe outside of The Maw by seeing it through a different perspective, even showing how kids find themselves in this hellhole being served as dinner. It’s an interesting approach and the tale the kid tells Six is engaging to a degree (though I felt it needed more pages to build his and his sister’s bond).
Despite that though, there are many problems here. John Shackleford is the writer and from what I’ve heard, he helped write the game itself. A good choice to have working on this particular comic for sure if that’s the case, but it also explains the problems here. The storytelling and writing are not very good. The plot seems to be a bit all over the place–especially in the first half when it’s focusing on Six and her memories, both the story and the narration are very disjointed. It doesn’t flow well from page to page, like the writer had a completely different train of thought on each page. It’s hard to follow and the pacing feels like it’s jumping back and forth between being slow and fast, while both the dialogue and narration are clunky. The second half of the comic is much stronger with the flashback story, but I felt so lost at first that it was difficult to get into. I think this comic would have greatly benefitted from having a second writer, where Shackleford can basically tell and explain his story to and have that person convert it into a more engaging experience.
Though the writing has its problems, the comic’s biggest strength is its artwork. Provided by Aaron Alexovich, the art is an absolute perfect fit for this comic. The video game had a very unnerving, creepy, disgusting, and hostile look and feel to its art direction, which the comic captures perfectly. The designs and characters look exactly how I would see them being transferred into a comic and the new creatures and settings feel like they would totally be a part of this universe, like the man(?) that whisks the kids away to The Maw. Despite the story flow issues, the layouts look great and the panels flow relatively well on each page at least. The depiction of the some of the scenes and moments in the game, as well as the new haunting moments, are beautifully macabre and unsettling. Combined with Thiago Riebeiro’s dreary, ugly colors, the artwork is amazing and is only held back by a weak script that needed a few more revisions.
Is It Good?
While Little Nightmares #1 boasts fantastic artwork that captures the video game wonderfully and there are interesting ideas here, the writing and storytelling are not very good. It’s hard to follow along with, the writing mechanics are not great, and it’s not as engaging as you would think. Maybe wait until the mini-series is over to decide whether or not to try this one out.