Little Nightmares was a frighteningly unique platformer that preyed on our deepest fears in the most fascinating ways.
As a fearful young child, you ventured into a world dominated by all manner of terrors. Some felt comical, while others were expressed with such grotesque malignance that you couldn’t help but whimper away in desperation. Despite its visual splendour, Little Nightmares was often held back by a frustrating approach to level design that pushed needless trial and error to the forefront – something, sadly, its excellent sequel doesn’t rise above.
However, these flaws aren’t enough to detract from what is an ambitious expansion of the original game, building upon its environmental scale and depiction of fear dramatically. Tarsier Studios has once again crafted a grim, unsettling and gorgeous platformer in a world that’s simply begging to be explored, even if the creatures that define it are constantly desperate to push you away. Just be prepared for this to get under your skin.
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- Little Nightmares 2 continues the narrative of the last game’s downloadable content
- Takes place in a world whose inhabitants are addicted to television and under control of The Thin Man
- The gameplay formula remains largely unchanged, but feels larger and more ambitious in scope
Little Nightmares begins in a mysterious forest, where you wake as young boy, Mono. The environment is drenched in a mixture of muted greys and blacks, almost like the world hopes to convey the uneasy screeching of a static image. This is fitting, since the inhabitants of this world have become addicted to television and enslaved by a deadly adversary known as The Thin Man. As Mono wakes up and looks around, his only choice is to move forward, hoping that the horrors that await can be overcome.
Those who played the original game will recognise many of the characters and themes, with Little Nightmares 2 being a direct continuation of the original’s twisted narrative. That being said, prior knowledge definitely isn’t required to enjoy the game. Its storytelling is purposely abstract and lacking in voice acting, decisions that are all made to serve the distorted melancholy it presides within. As someone who played the first game several years ago and let it fade to memory, such an approach was more than welcome.
I began making my way through the first level with rampant trepidation, stopping to poke and prod at every new object, both manmade and organic. A sack of rotting corpses hanging among the trees made it clear I didn’t belong here, and anyone who dared cross The Thin Man’s path could meet a similar fate. Little Nightmares 2 takes a diegetic approach to sound design, meaning the only utterances of audio would realistically be heard by Mono in their world. Immersion is heightened significantly because of this, making it clear the only means of escape is to push past whatever terrors lie in wait.
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Leaves crumble underfoot as I make my way through the forest, avoiding bear traps littering the floor and rocks falling from above that can crush me in one fell swoop. Death feels like a natural part of Little Nightmares 2, the shock value of a young child biting the dust in such gruesome ways reinforcing how ruthless its deranged setting can be. I adore this aspect, even if repeated deaths in the effort to solve puzzles nullify the horror of you facing the same enemies again and again.
The forest is home to threats both human and natural, with the rotting canopy emerging onto a rotting wooden cabin that a decaying family calls home. I clumsily scramble atop of shelves and down the handles of drawers, praying that the inhabitants don’t spot me snooping around. Many of them are long dead, but a bulbous man with a disfigured face and a fully loaded shotgun are ready and waiting to greet me.
But before facing off against him, I find a young girl locked away in the house. I think it’s the first game’s protagonist, but I could be wrong – all I know is she needs saving. I break her out, and together we flee from the shotgun-wielding menace into the swamplands that await outside. What follows is a thrilling chase sequence where we must hide behind fragile boxes in the wake of bullets, and sink beneath rotting waters praying we won’t need to come up for air.
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- Each level is themed around a certain environment or monster, such as the school or forest
- You’ll need to solve a variety of puzzles while also hiding from enemies using stealth mechanics
- Much of the campaign is spent with a companion who you can lead by the hand and with whom you can solve puzzles
Even when we finally manage to escape, safety still feels like a world away. Little Nightmares 2 never makes you feel relaxed, omitting a constant state of insecurity that instils a need to keep pushing forward, even if the result is a fleeting sense of escape from an undeniably broken world. The second stage provides us with a deeper insight into the society that underpins this world, and how they’ve become so easily ensnared by The Thin Man and his dystopian signals.
This level takes us to a school situated within a monolithic structure that twists and turns almost like it’s alive, acting of its own accord. Children are depicted as feral, porcelain infants whose skulls burst into pieces on the slightest impact, leading to some satisfying combat sequences where you clobber them with hammers and pipes as they sprint towards you. But most of the time will be spent hiding, praying both the students and their horrifying teacher don’t spot you.
The teacher stalks around the classroom, lurching her snake-like head around to make sure the students are watching her every move. If they don’t, she marches over to their desk and slams down a ruler with an astounding thud. Meanwhile, I’m crouching beneath her, praying she doesn’t notice me as I desperately try to escape this haunted hall of learning. Later sections in the school have you sprinting away from her, pouncing in fear at a neck that stretches forth like an otherworldly serpent.
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Little Nightmares makes equal use of graphic imagery and atmosphere to make you feel woefully uneasy, paranoid that the next big threat will prey on your deepest fears. Thankfully, I’m yet to come across any spiders, but I’ll keep counting my blessings for now. Each new level feels like an exercise in overcoming new horrors, building up the stakes until you reach The Thin Man’s haunted abode.
Little Nightmares 2 builds upon everything that made its predecessor such a spooky delight, enhancing its scope and mechanical ambition in equal measure.
Judging from the early hours, it’s shaping up to be a horror adventure well worth playing, and can’t wait to see what horrors await me in the full release next month.
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