Little Nightmares is an independent production developed by Swedish studio Tarsier Games. It is a platform survival horror game, highly acclaimed by the critics regarding its graphic design, atmosphere and audio. The person responsible for the latter is Tobias Lilja, composer and audio designer, who did both the soundtrack and sound design for the game.
Little Nighmares depicts the story of a little girl named Six, dressed in a rain coat, who tries to escape a mysterious vessel. The ship is huge while Six herself is tiny, which already is frightening and overwhelming. The girl meets on her way other imprisoned children, some friendly creatures known as the Nomes, as well as grotesque monsters taken straight from the child’s nightmares.
Little Nightmares OST is a great example of creating a good horror score without using cliches.
The game’s audio deserves much appreciation. Given the fact the composer did the audio as a whole, there is no border between the sound design and the score, therefore the audio part is very coherent. Little Nightmares OST contains whole bunch of grinding, metallic sounds and long reverbs sounding like they come from the inside of a huge vessel (The Janitor Awaits, Cornered). Tobias Lilja, besides various metal parts, used such objects as a ship fog horn or a spring reverb set in motion by an electronic bow, as instruments.
These dark, dissonant parts of the score were inspired by the soundtrack for the second installment of Silent Hill, as well as such masters of industrial grinding like the band Einstürzende Neubauten. We can also hear references to the Outlast series. Trance-like beats with taiko drums (March of the Guests, The Lady Circles), unsettling brass strikes (Cornered, A Feeling for Meat, Six’s Theme Part 2), ambient electronics (Moaning Drone, Lights Out) – all of these makes the music in the game suspenseful.
As the composer states, the child protagonist and children themselves are a key part of this production, so he decided to refer to themes related to children in his music as well. He was looking for inspiration in nursery rhymes, music box melodies, and also in the voices of children. These motives are present especially in the themes related to Six directly, which are Hunger 1 and 2 as well as Six’s Theme Part 1 and 2. These themes evolve musically just like Six evolves as the plot of the game develops, and her metamorphosis is not in a good direction. Little Nightmares often uses suspense and the ending combined with the music has a striking effect on the player.
I think of the human voice as a musical instrument as any other. – Tobias Lilja, composer/sound designer
Little Nightmares OST is a great example of creating a good horror score without using cliches like the omnipresent strings. The author artfully works with everyday objects, as well as finding an interesting purpose for the classical instruments, for example accordion, and also human voice. As he claims, experimenting and listening to your feelings is important during the process of creation. If your music makes you scared, it is quite possible it will make the others as well.