Little Nightmares felt different to your typical horror title when it originally launched back in 2017. In a time where a lot of games in the genre force-fed players a plethora of jump scares from a first-person perspective, Tarsier Studios took a different route by giving players an eerie puzzle-filled platforming-adventure that tried to scare players with its unnerving (yet sometimes surprisingly cute) atmosphere – and, of course, a bunch of grotesque villains whose peculiar abnormalities were used against players as they pursued them across the deadly ship known as The Maw.
It proved to be a hit with gamers back then so it’s only natural that we’d see a sequel, with Little Nightmares II looking to bring more of the same eerie thrills of the original. You’re not alone this time though, with new protagonist Mono joined by the previous title’s hero Six as they embark on a vicious journey together. Is this a sequel? Is this a prequel? I’m not spilling anything, but I can promise that you’re in for another memorable (and sometimes terrifying) journey.
The previous title was pretty obtuse as far as the narrative was concerned and, perhaps predictably, you can expect more of the same in Little Nightmares II. Waking up alone in a desolate and creepy woods, players take on the role of Mono; a young and spritely boy who just so happens to have a paper bag on his head for reasons unknown. Whilst he originally sets off alone, he soon rescues a caged girl (Six) in a nearby house that seems to be home to a huntsman. Whilst initially afraid of Mono, she soon realises that her best chance of survival is to work with him. Thus, they venture out together and try to evade the wrath of the huntsman that has become aware of their presence, with the ultimate goal being to try and make their way through the nearby city that just so happens to be full of hypnotising TV screens that bear the image of a peculiar thin man…
A lot of the story is open to player interpretation, with plenty of metaphorical imagery on display throughout the game across both its environments and the different creatures you encounter. Nothing is ever outright explained to you – heck, you aren’t even introduced to the main characters – but you’ll always feel like you learn enough about them to be in the know as to what’s going on… sort of. Yep, there’s always an element of mystery and intrigue behind Little Nightmares II’s disturbing adventure, but in that way where it’s fun to speculate about the meaning behind each scenario you face. It kept me hooked in right until the end, with the final pay-off making the journey feel especially worthwhile.
Gameplay-wise, Little Nightmares II offers more of the same that players saw in the original game, with platforming, puzzling, and sneaking your way past the ghastly villains that are lurking around very much at the forefront of the experience. Of course, you’re not alone this time around, with Six also making herself useful by giving some help when it comes to climbing over big obstacles or when solving puzzles that need two pairs of hands. There’s something comforting about not being alone for the journey, especially when you’re both being chased by a hulking monstrosity and she’ll show you to best route to take when trying to run away from them. She’s actually pretty smart and acts independently too, ensuring she doesn’t feel like a burden like a lot of AI companions do.
There’s a stronger emphasis placed on fighting back than in the original too, with the player occasionally armed with an axe or pipe that can be used to attack enemies that are pursuing them. Admittedly, these moments are few and far between, but they bring with them a satisfying sense of survivalist empowerment where you no longer feel like the prey. Sure, it can be a little awkward to line up attacks perfectly, but it still feels good to smash up the masks of those bloody troublesome kids that hunt you in the school… you’ll see what I mean if you play the game.
Not all action sequences hit the mark perfectly, though. There’s one scene where you have to freeze enemies in their track by pointing a torch at them, but with foes coming at you from all directions it ends up feeling a bit finicky in design with it often difficult to point the torch perfectly in the right direction – it led to me suffering plenty of deaths where I felt the biggest obstacle came with battling the controls. The jumping mechanics could feel a little imprecise on occasions too, especially during those tense sequences where you’re trying to outrun some vicious baddie in order to survive.
Thankfully, there’s a heck of a lot more good than bad in Little Nightmares II’s design, with those cumbersome control woes only surfacing on a few occasions. For the most part you’ll be facing cleverly designed puzzles, fun platforming segments, and an outstandingly designed world that brings with it creepy sights wherever you look. Little Nightmares II isn’t always in your face with its horrors, but there’s ALWAYS something foreboding in the background that’ll send a shiver up your spine if you look closely at it. It’s really impressive and shows that the horror genre doesn’t always have to be about cheap scares, whilst the stunning visuals help strengthen that portentous atmosphere even further.
The original game wasn’t all that long and it’s more of the same here, with Little Nightmares II only taking around four-to-five hours to beat during my first playthrough. Those who want a bit more from the adventure will enjoy searching for the unlockable hats that are scattered around, whilst there are also sixteen glitched children to uncover across the environment – you’ll unlock an additional secret ending if you manage to find all of these, so there’s certainly an extra incentive in place to peruse each locale for them if you want to see a little taster of where the series might go next.
Little Nightmares II is just as unnerving and disturbing as the original game, but it makes for one heck of an enjoyable adventure that’ll keep players on the edge of their seat. Sure, it has some hiccups with the controls along the way, but the clever puzzle design, the beautiful yet foreboding world, and the rewarding sense of desperation to survive as you face off against its many vicious villains ensures that it stands out as yet another terrifying triumph for the team at Tarsier Studios.
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC