Little Bug is a dreamlike platformer by Buddy System that invites you into an unsettling alternate reality.
You follow the journey of Nyah, a young girl who slips into a spooky parallel world on her way home from school. Average city streets turn into desolate ones, dull alleys turn into haunted hideouts, and empty sidewalks turn into walkways for ghosts. Once Nyah gets home, she has an argument with her mother that ends abruptly and in confusion, leaving the girl lost in a foreign environment.
One of the most charming things about this introduction to Little Bug is Nyah herself. In many games of a similar nature, the protagonist is astonished and unsettled by their new and often dangerous surroundings. Refreshingly, in Little Bug, Nyah seems unfazed by and at times even delighted by her supernatural surroundings. While she is intimidated by some of the obstacles placed in her way, she generally focuses on other things, like her newfound ability to soar through the air.
Casting a child as the protagonist of this game was an interesting choice and one which I found immensely compelling. Not only does it immediately engage the player as their protective instincts kick in, but it also offers a fresh perspective on the spooky and supernatural. I can’t help but be reminded of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline when thinking of Little Bug, as both narratives feature fearless young girls in frightening environments. Nyah takes what could be a disturbing environment and reframes it as something almost whimsical instead, a rather original take on the supernatural genre.
When it comes to gameplay, Little Bug has simple but strong mechanics. Nyah herself can’t do much other than walk across even surfaces; however, once she discovers a spirit companion of sorts, it enables her to swing effortlessly between platforms and launch herself across vast gaps. Much of the gameplay is about timing — you must wait for precisely the right moment to move. You can play this game with great success using either a gamepad or keyboard, and learning how to navigate the world is truly an enjoyable experience. That said, the developers recommend using a controller for a reason. I had a much easier time traversing levels when using one, while I found myself easily frustrated with just a keyboard.
Little Bug also has much to offer to completionists who want to discover hidden bits of gameplay and narrative. Scattered throughout the levels are collectibles that are always accompanied by some commentary from Nyah that reveals insight into her life at school and at home. At any given time, six of these items can be stored in Nyah’s lunchbox, and they can be sacrificed to a spirit entity who will sometimes offer special challenges in return.
In terms of art, Little Bug is a delight. The somewhat spooky, supernatural setting is rendered in loving detail, reminiscent of the dreamscapes in Night in the Woods. The shadowy entities that loom in the background evoke a real sense of wonder, and the glowing adversaries that you encounter in the world are both mysterious and somewhat intimidating. These impressive visuals are accompanied by an original soundtrack that adds to an immersive experience and enhances the surreal and dreamlike mood of the game. It is no small feat to effectively combine whimsical aesthetics with haunted ones, but Little Bug pulls it off with style.
In all, Little Bug is a polished platformer that will charm speedrunners, completionists and casual players alike with a distinct aesthetic and intuitive mechanics. Following Nyah’s adventures is a wonderful treat that no indie enthusiast should miss out on.
Little Bug is now available for PC and Mac on Steam.