A New Nightmare
Little Nightmares II is a really impressive horror game. Building off the great work done in 2017’s Indie gem, Little Nightmares II serves up a gnarly sequel boasting 5 chapters of nightmarish fun. The game blends a unique aesthetic with some excellent sound design to produce a really solid game, one that’s somehow scarier than the original while also building off what made the first so good and amplifying that to new heights.
Those heights are reached by a new pairing between our protagonist Mono and the first game’s returning protagonist Six, this time in a starring AI role. Before we get there though, Little Nightmares II starts us off alone.
The game’s opening is an important one, as we’ll return to it several times over the 4-6 hours of game-time, but eventually ends with Mono being spewed out a TV screen alone in the woods. Armed with his wits and a brown bag over his head (which can be changed throughout your adventure to a number of collected hats), you control this faceless boy as he navigates through an increasingly elaborate and dangerous set of chapters. All of this leads to you discovering the truth about your origin.
That origin is certainly hinted at throughout the game, starting with you stumbling upon your trembling, raincoat-wearing protagonist form the first game, Six. This time though, she’s in the supporting role for this adventure, lending a helping hand (literally) on more than one occasion as you try to make it out alive through this nightmarish ride of scares.
That’s easier said than done though, and a lot of the time you’ll find yourself dying repeatedly just to find a solution to some of the puzzles or fiendish traps on offer. There’s nothing here that reaches the eye-watering difficulty of say Super Meat Boy, but there’s definitely some challenging segments.
What starts out as a relatively simple affair – dodging bear traps and skipping past ropes – soon becomes a much more urgent and dangerous affair, with the later chapters throwing in some really tough obstacles to overcome.
These obstacles are broken up nicely by Mono’s ability to hit back against his enemies. Much like Alien: Isolation though, these weapons never make you feel overpowered and only serve to slow down the nerve-ending horde of creepy creatures after you. This action mostly comes in the form of sluggishly swinging axes or pipes against foes, which does bring with it some annoying fighting mechanics.
While the game undoubtedly nails its sluggish feel of painfully swinging an axe, it does so at the detriment of unclear hit boxes and some cheap deaths. Several times I found myself swinging at an approaching enemy, only for them to either sidestep or stop momentarily, suffering a cheap death. The hitbox detection can be a little wobbly at times too, especially during chapter 3’s segments. These moments are thankfully few and far between, but it’s hard not to feel like the mechanics are sometimes holding this back from becoming more of the horror masterpiece it strives to be.
Aesthetically though, Little Nightmares II looks absolutely gorgeous. Playing on a PS5, the game has a wonderful graphical fidelity, with some impressive weather effects that are really crisp and play off the surprising depth to each level. Raindrops pelt the ground while guttering flows water freely down onto the ground. Small puddles rise up and shiver from a strong gust of wind while ominous candle-light inside flickers and dances across walls.
There are a whole host of richly detailed interiors too, with tables cluttered full of objects that can be moved, thrown and manipulated. There’s actually some achievements that specifically require you to play around with this too, and it’s great to see this level of depth from Tarsier Studios.
It’s hard to put into words how good this game looks, and all of this feeds into the nightmarish design of the characters too, which feel like they’ve been ripped right from the animated movie Coraline. Instead of button-eyed smiling mothers, we’re graced with a shotgun-wielding hunter and quite possibly the scariest school teacher you’ve ever seen. I won’t spoil what else is here but suffice to say, this game brings some very creative creatures to life.
The bulk of the game though sees a combination of puzzle solving and platforming mixed with chase sequences and basic boss battles. Each chapter is set-up in a very similar way too, with exploration giving careful, teasing glimpses of the big-bad for that section.
There’s some adrenaline-soaked chase sequences and eventually a big boss battle to try and thwart your foe. Along the way though, there are plenty of environmental puzzles to solve, which help to lull you into a false sense of security before ramping up the horror again. Wisely, Tarsier Studios keeps the length of the game down while making sure there’s a lot of variety to what you’re doing.
On a side note here though, the final chapter’s puzzles are all audio-based puzzles meaning people with hearing problems will undoubtedly come unstuck here. I’m not sure if there’s an option to change this or not but from the menus I saw, this could cause problems for those who are either deaf or suffer from ear problems. Still, it’s a minor point in what’s otherwise a solid game.
On top of the careful attention to level design and varied tasks you conduct, Little Nightmares II peppers in a variety of different hats, fun achievements to unlock and some glitching remains of other kids nestled in the gnarly crevices of levels. Completionists will be in their element here and it’s strongly advised that you do unlock everything, as the game hides away a secret ending that’s well worth checking out.
You could just watch this on YouTube of course but the game does such a good job with its scares and level design that it would be a disservice not to finish this one.
Tense, beautifully rendered and armed with some fantastic sound design, Little Nightmares II is an unnerving deep dive into a nightmarish world you’ll never want to leave. The game is a shining example of how to do horror right and apart from a few cumbersome gameplay mechanics, sets a high bar for gaming in 2021.
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