Games like The Dark Pictures: Little Hope can be pretty difficult to review. It’s not because there isn’t anything to talk about, because trust me, there are plenty of great and terrifying things that the game does that I’d love to yell about in depth to someone. It’s more that it’s a case of not wanting to spoil anything for any potential players, with the narrative details and frights best to be uncovered first-hand.
With that in mind, I’d like to confirm this review has no big spoilers for the game and instead keeps things simple and to the point. Ok, maybe I’ll spoil one thing; The Dark Pictures: Little Hope is REALLY good and is certain to send more than a few shivers up the spines of players…
Remember how predecessor Man of Medan kept players on a claustrophobic and confined boat that was full of scares and gruesome sights? Well, The Dark Pictures: Little Hope sends you to a more open environment, with players able to explore the abandoned and unsettling town of Little Hope. Following a bus crash on the outskirts, you lead your five protagonists into the town itself as you look to seek help. Of course, things aren’t quite as they seem and it doesn’t take long for you to realise that a grisly past haunts the empty but haunting streets…
What follows is a horrifying tale of witchcraft and mystery, with the events that occurred within Little Hope unbeknown to playable characters Andrew (played by Black Mirror fan-favourite Will Poulter), Daniel, Taylor, John, and Angela, but soon to be found out as they unravel the horrors lurking around them.
I’ll leave it at that as far as the game’s narrative is concerned, with The Dark Pictures: Little Hope’s story best to be uncovered by the player. It’s a very narrative-orientated tale, with the different choices you make and actions you take helping shape the story as you progress, meaning you aren’t likely to have the same experience with the game twice in a row. Best of all, these choices also change the personalities of the characters that make them, with certain decisions causing them to behave or react differently to their allies. It’s a really interesting dynamic that can see some friction form in the party, helping build a more believable atmosphere where fear can drive folk to do peculiar things.
Everything is strengthened by the writing of the game – it’s so effective that you’ll want to see every difference that you can make based upon your actions, whilst the varied scares will constantly keep you on the edge of your seat as you eagerly (and often warily) anticipate the next grisly sight that’ll be in your path. Sure, there are horror tropes aplenty and some of the jump scares can be predictable, but that’s become a given with the genre really so it can’t be held against the game too much.
Whilst the narrative is at the forefront in The Dark Pictures: Little Hope, there are still plenty of elements of exploration to be found where you’ll get to control the different characters of the game. You’ll head through Little Hope and its surrounding areas as you gather different clues and items that progress the tale, whilst there are also plenty of QTEs to test your reactions and see if you’ve got what it takes to survive through to the end of the story. Sometimes, the best course of action is to hide… just make sure you keep track of your heart rate when you do.
What helps make The Dark Pictures: Little Hope keep its eerie atmosphere throughout is its lack of light, with very few areas of the game lit up artificially. More so than not, you’ll be relying on just the moonlight or your mobile phone to provide a glimpse of what might be ahead of you, which really helps maintain an unnerving vibe where you’re never quite sure as to what might be just in front of you. It’s worth mentioning that the game has some fantastic sound design on show too, with plenty of things that go bump in the night to be heard as you’re exploring. Between the lack of light and the grisly sounds, I was left genuinely frightened to wander into some areas of the town at times, which is a feeling I haven’t had since I first played Silent Hill. Well done, Supermassive Games.
It’s a compliment to the slick and creepy design of the experience though, with The Dark Pictures: Little Hope certainly ticking all of the boxes as far as providing a horror-fuelled escapade is concerned. It takes things slow when it needs to build tension, but also isn’t afraid to unleash a splurge of scares upon the player to keep them in check when they get TOO comfortable. As a horror enthusiast, it was brilliant to see unfold and ensured that The Dark Pictures: Little Hope thrilled right until the very end.
Besides seeing how the choices you make can affect the story, you’ll also find replayability in the game through the many collectibles you can find across the world. Then there are the multiplayer modes which allow players to enjoy the fun together as they make decisions that shape the story. I haven’t tried this out yet, but I’m sure they’ll appeal to players who want to share the scares. Personally? I preferred playing The Dark Pictures: Little Hope alone where only my decisions mattered (and where I could hide how scared I was).
I’d be remiss not to mention how pretty The Dark Pictures: Little Hope is to look at, with the environments around you brought to life by impressive lighting effects that really help make the little details stand out. The character models are great too, with Will Poulter looking just like his real-life counterpart… it was almost uncanny valley-ish at times given how realistic it was. It’s just a really good-looking game, which makes the frights all the more terrifying when they do take over the screen.
The Dark Pictures: Little Hope is a blast to play, with its unnerving narrative brought to life by countless scares that will keep players on the edge of their seat. Sure, it is home to the occasional horror trope and there were some moments that could be predictable, but it didn’t stop the game from being any less tense to play through – especially since the world and sound design ensured that the creepy atmosphere never waned.
If you’re a fan of horror games that allow you to shape your fate based upon your decisions (or Supermassive Games’ previous work with Man of Medan and Until Dawn), you definitely won’t want to miss out on The Dark Pictures: Little Hope.
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC