'Little Nightmares' Lead Designers on Studio Ghibli Influence and a Possible Sequel

Dennis Talajic of Tarsier Studios also weighs in on the decision to make a shorter, downloadable game rather than something akin to the studio's previous massive console titles.
Courtesy of Tarsier Studios

Tarsier Studios, the Swedish video game producers behind the side-scrolling Little Big Planet series, have returned with the atmospheric puzzle-platformer horror game Little Nightmares.

Touted as a "dark whimsical tale," Little Nightmares puts players in control of 9-year-old girl Six as she traverses the surreal, ominous and bizarre surroundings of The Maw, a vessel that is home to a roster of nightmarish giants out to get her. The game's design — surreal, dream-like and foreboding — has earned it positive reviews from critics and gamers alike. 

Lead designer Dennis Talajic and producer Henrik Larsson spoke about the game's unique design on the Namek vs. Saiyan podcast, co-hosted by The Hollywood Reporter's Patrick Shanley, on Monday. 

"We find inspiration from many places. Amongst others, we find inspiration from Ghibli movies and also The City of Lost Children,” Talajic said, referencing Japan's Studio Ghibli, behind such animated classics as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, as well as the 1995 Ron Perlman-starring fantasy film about a society that kidnaps children to steal their dreams in the hopes of extending their lifespans. 

The influences are easy to see in Talajic's game, as Six, a little girl in a bright yellow raincoat, makes her way through the dank metal surroundings of The Maw, sticking to the shadows to avoid the grasp of grotesque, surreal giants aiming to capture her. Despite the game's disturbing setting, Talajic still sees it as a child-friendly game.

“I like to see it as our dark take on Little Big Planet," said Talajic. "It’s built around the gears of working around children-friendly games.”

When asked about the decision to make a shorter, downloadable game rather than something akin to the studio's previous massive console titles in the Little Big Planet series, Talajic stressed the age-old adage of "quality over quantity."

“It was a big challenge to us to make. We had initially wanted to make it longer, but we always said it’s better that we focus on making the content that we make good rather than bloat it with meaningless extras,” said Talajic.

Added Larsson: “We really wanted players to feel like they wanted to live in [our world] at the end, rather than getting sick and tired of it."

Despite that, however, the designers seemed eager at the prospect of a sequel to the breakout hit: "We obviously have many ideas on things we'd still like to explore."

Little Nightmares is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

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