Crafting a gripping horror story, especially one that allows players to have a little bit of input into how things will play out, is incredibly difficult and through the years Supermassive Games has done their best endeavoring on delivering the best spine-tingling games they can. With Until Dawn serving as their best starting point, the developer moved onto an anthology series of games that, while smaller in scale, would come out at a quicker pace. With Man of Medan being the first in The Dark Pictures Anthology and serving as a base of what to expect, has the developer stepped things up a bit for the most recent entry, Little Hope?
It is worth noting that like any anthology, the story for Little Hope is entirely self-contained so those who have not played Man of Medan do not need to worry about missing any clues or even references to events that have happened in the past. Instead Little Hope is set entirely in a small New England town aptly named Little Hope that not only took part in the horrific witch trials of the 17th century but also suffered from a horrific tragedy closer to modern day with an entire family losing their lives in the 1970s. Here players find their group of survivors stranded in the middle of the night after their bus flips and crashes in the middle of the road after taking a detour. With no sign of the bus driver and a mysterious fog preventing them from leaving, four college students and their professor find themselves completely lost.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope takes on a bit more of a unique twist when it comes to storytelling as rather than simply focus on the now, it also focuses heavily on events that have happened during a series of witch trials that plagued the village in the past. Incredibly creepy ghosts often grab a hold of characters and bring them into visions of events from the past, giving players and the characters themselves a glimpse at the town’s history and, oddly enough, the doppelgangers of every survivor always seem to play a major role in these events. Of course delving too much deeper into the meanings of these visions and the how these interactions between the characters and their past selves would spoil things, but let’s just say that character interactions and choices do play a major role here in ways that many would not expect.
That being said, where things quickly spiraled out of control and featured a number of escalations throughout the story in Man of Medan, this time around Little Hope is a far slower burn when it comes to both revealing plot details and even delivering some proper scares. This does help drive the tension up, especially when players know their characters are being stalked by demonic creatures, but often the pay off doesn’t quite feel worth it. This is partially due to the fact that the game relies heavily on swapping between the current time and back to the events occurring in the 17th century. As a result it can become a bit difficult to feel attached to some of the cast’s current selves as they are given very little time to really develop in any meaningful way outside of the choices that players make.
These choices do seem to play a more pivotal role in how various events will play out than in their previous game. As before, characters will have unique traits that develop depending on how players choose to play them and not only can some of their negative traits or positive traits play a role in how they automatically react to a scene, they can play a major role in other events as well. This means that, outside of tring to go for the handful of different endings and the numerous variations of each one, players will find plenty of replayability here to see how various scenes play out depending on the choices one has made.
In most ways players will find that The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope plays the same as the previous game in the series as players will find themselves making timed dialogue decisions, exploring the environment while searching for “secrets” that can reveal more of the game’s plot and some mysteries of their own, and of course taking part in a number of quick time events as well as “keep calm” rhythm style events. Both the quick time events and rhythm events have been made a bit easier with the latter not lasting nearly as long as they used to and the former now featuring a bit of warning before the player needs to worry about pressing the button. These warnings also feature some context icons so players can roughly know what to expect when they appear.
Another change that has been made to the game is the way the camera system works. While players still have a general control of the camera the game will occasionally take on a dynamic camera angle that, while useful for a jump scare at times, can often halt progress entirely as the character veers off into a wall due to the quick camera shift. It is nice to note that the dynamic shifting between character perspectives during intense sequences is a noticeable improvement and helps keep tension high as players often need to worry about keeping more than one character alive during a scene now. While searching for secrets and the returning “photos” that serve as premonitions for events that can potentially happen in the future, players will find that Little Hope is a bit more limiting in exploration despite featuring areas that appear to be open in nature. Instead, players will often find themselves limited by a fog that will prevent any type of backtracking in an area and teleport them back to the rest of the group, hindering some exploration of bigger areas.
Visuals & Audio
One area that Supermassive Games continues to excel at is creating some amazing looking character models that are highly detailed as well as some incredibly horrific looking monsters that the survivors will need to worry about. Even the town of Little Hope itself is a delightfully dilapidated shadow of its former self and helps provide a spooky atmosphere as players travel through run-down buildings, overgrown paths, and ancient burial grounds in a town that was well known for its witch trials.
As for the voice work, the characters are handled excellently here as their portrayals come off as natural and fitting for most of the horrific and confusing scenes that can play out in front of them. The sound effects and background noises really help convey a sense of dread while exploring the town and while the signature theme song used for the first game does return as a great rock intro for the game, a fairly awful “cover” version is used for the credits that doesn’t match the feel of the track at all.
It is clear that Supermassive Games is starting to get a hang of things with The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope as the developers have told a tale that is far more intriguing and mysterious than their first entry but the slower burn and eventual pay-off still feel a bit flawed. By polishing the quick time events and featuring the same classic mechanics as before, Little Hope serves as a noticeable improvement in The Dark Pictures Anthology but one that is still lacking in some areas, especially when it comes to exploring the creepy world it takes place in.