Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X (Reviewed), PC
Release Date: February 11, 2021
Price: $29.99 USD – Available Here $59.95 AUD – Available Here
There are a number of different ways developers can try and create a game that will scare players. Some go the visceral route with plenty of gore, others focus on mostly jump scares, or feature creepy environments that boggle the mind, but no matter which route or combination is taken, the key element to most horror games comes from their atmosphere. Tarsier Studios’ Little Nightmares surprised many when it originally released as it featured not only a strangely unsettling world filled with twisted sights that would make the skin crawl, but it also served as a great puzzle platformer at the same time. So now that the developers have continued their story with Little Nightmares II have they managed to improve upon their formula?
Rather than continuing the story as Six, this time around players take control of a small boy named Mono. Mono crawls out of a television screen only to find himself trapped in a strange forest filled with traps and only one path to try and escape it. Along the way Mono finds himself saving the protagonist from the first game, Six, from a monstrous hunter’s cage only to find that the trap filled forest was the least of their worries as the horrors that exist within the house and further beyond inside of the Pale City.
Whereas the previous setting of The Maw offered plenty of dread with its immense size and nature, the fact that players are now seeing that the monsters that dwelled aboard the ship are not an anomaly but instead appear to be the norm for this twisted world and the small children that are Mono and Six are out of place. Similar to the previous game, Little Nightmares II focuses heavily on showing and not telling players about the world as the environments that the pair travels through are littered with creepy objects and little clues about the nature of what has happened to the city and how warped things are.
Across a roughly seven hour campaign players will venture through a variety of locations that, while we won’t spoil them specifically, each features grotesquely villainous adults that tower over the children and shine as some of the best moments of the game once again. Each level also features an additional unique threat to help keep things feeling fresh. There are many spine-tingling moments that await in each stage, especially when players make a mistake or are forced into a chase sequence as these moments reveal the true nature of some of these monstrous creatures.
Outside of the straight horrors that players see on screen there is a bit of social commentary running through Little Nightmares II as well as almost every stage in the game features television sets scattered around the world, some with dead people still watching them, others only surrounded by clothing, and even others that can be used to lure things to their deaths. This focus on showing off how the denizens of the Pale City have fallen into such an addiction to screens works fairly well compared to real life even if it is a bit on the nose. That being said, it does an extra bit of creepiness to the world of Little Nightmares II and considering how ghoulish it already is, that is quite an accomplishment.
For the most part Little Nightmares II plays similar to how the first game in the series played as Mono must navigate a world that was designed for beings much larger than he is. Players will find that while Mono can still jump, climb, push and pull objects, and throw things, there is a new tool in his arsenal that is new for Little Nightmares II and that is the ability to wield weapons. Occasionally players will be able to find sticks, pipes, or even a hammer that all happen to be oversized and can use these items to smash through an object that may be blocking his path or taking out a specific smaller foe but this is easier said than done. Since every weapon is so big for Mono, he requires a wind-up to swing it and is slowed down while dragging it along, meaning that players will need to purposefully time attacks to avoid a frustratingly quick death.
Of course, the best way to stay alive in Little Nightmares II is to stay out of sight and once again sneaking by crouch-walking below furniture, into shadows, diving underwater, and more works the best to avoid catching the deadly eye of each stage’s signature enemy. Of course being caught can and will bet met with an instant death or, in some scripted cases, a chase scene that requires players to think on their toes but thankfully even if they should fail the game has a fairly generous checkpoint system that can even pick-up halfway through encounters sometimes to keep players engaged even if they aren’t the best at stealth or are struggling at running away.
While the fun of running away from horrors and eventually facing the fear of dealing with them is one of the core elements of Little Nightmares II, the other is puzzles and for the most part the game features plenty of solid puzzles and subtle environmental ones that, while not particularly challenging, require some extra thought to complete and this is helped by the fact that Mono is not alone in his journey. Despite how it may seem, this is not a co-op game by any means and instead Six is entirely AI controlled and will take actions of her own when near puzzles or interactable objects. This means that Six will occasionally move towards the proper direction of where players may need to solve something, help carry objects, or assist in long jumps. Of course Mono can also hold Six’s hand and call out to her if the player feels like which is a nice touch though it does break a bit of immersion sometimes as Six can often be clearly visible to an enemy that will instantly kill Mono and will ignore her entirely.
It is also nice to note that one particular level features a returning element from a piece of DLC in the first game as Mono will find a flashlight that, when aimed at a certain type of enemy, will freeze them in place. Requiring players to not only navigate a level alone, trying to solve puzzles, all while keeping horrific creatures at bay with a flashlight makes for some great tense gameplay and one of the best moments that don’t involve the twisted adults.
Visuals & Audio
As mentioned before, one of Tarsier Studios’ strengths in the first game was creating gloomy creepy atmospheres stages that the player must navigate through and thanks to Little Nightmares II being a bit bigger in scope, the team has been more creative with their world designs this time around and players will truly appreciate the intricate details that are scattered throughout the various stages and the designs of the monstrosities that Mono and Six have to avoid and run away from in order to survive.
It also helps that the game features some great atmospheric build-up and sound design. With minimal music players will be able to hear creepy sounds coming from just off-screen, the cracking of a spine as enemies search for Mono, the shrieks of terrifying delight when discovered, and much more combined together to create a truly frightening atmosphere that works wonders when combined with the game’s overall design.
Exploring this unnerving land and uncovering more elements as Mono and Six explore makes for an interesting story and one that players will enjoy even if it still ends up feeling a bit on the short side featuring an occasionally clumsy AI companion and a few new mechanics that range from being a bit frustrating to highly enjoyable. Little Nightmares II continues to excel at providing players a uniquely horrific world to survive in with satisfyingly challenging platforming and puzzles that, while not complicated, take a bit of extra thought to solve and prove that the series can still keep going strong from here out.
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