A carnival of the grotesque
Little Nightmares (PS4/XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 16+
Inured to the tricks of the horror genre, we've become jaded by years of repeat exposure. But a small child lost in a grimy, gloomy prison populated by a parade of grotesqueries? Now that's how you scare an audience.
Little Nightmares emulates the surreal early films of French directors Jeunet and Caro, who evoked similarly queasy themes of revolting food and deranged adults in Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. It also closely resembles last year's puzzle classic Inside in its mechanics and menacing backstory, though it can't quite nail the same amalgam of threat and wonder.
Your character, a girl named Six, wearing a bright yellow coat, shines like a beacon in this shadowy hell where obese chefs prepare disgusting meals of offal and blind janitors with creepily long arms roam the corridors. Six is defenceless and relies on guile and agility to dodge the hazards of this grisly adult world.
But she's resourceful and perfectly capable of climbing tottering piles of books or ominous stacks of cages to reach new areas or pull on a handle to open a door. Though the puzzles rarely feel taxing and the penalty for failure proves slight, Little Nightmares is sustained by its suffocating atmosphere and visual ingenuity.
Puyo Puyo Tetris
(PS4/Switch) ★★★★ Age: 3+
Two titans of the falling-shapes genre collide in this relentlessly upbeat mash-up. A generous selection of modes pits up to four players in teams or against one another in rounds of Tetris and Puyo Puyo (a match-four-gems puzzler).
Story mode is practically ruined by the screechy animated characters that introduce each round. But PPT offers so many other variants on the theme (Tetris vs Tetris, Tetris vs Puyo Puyo, fusions of the two, etc) that everyone can find a favourite mode. At a knockdown price (on PS4 at least), this amusing crossover scores on value for money alone.
(PS4/XO/PC) ★★★ Age: 18+
A second sequel to an age-old point'n'click adventure, Dreamfall Chapters intertwines two disparate universes in a convoluted yarn about a future where people become enslaved to dream machines.
Chapters opens at a glacial pace, suffers from stilted technical underpinnings and does itself no favours with its unwillingness to explain the rich lore and history of Dreamfall.
Newcomers could be forgiven for losing interest well before the parallel storylines begin to coalesce, turning Chapters from a glitchy curiosity into an engrossing and well written sci-fi saga.