Title: Little Nightmares 2
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Genre: Puzzle Platformer, Horror
Available On: PS4, Xbox, PC, Switch
Version Tested: PC
Release Date: February 12, 2021
In an era where platformers are seemingly back on the rise, the horror genre has joined its successful climb. Titles like Braid and LIMBO laid the groundwork for modern puzzle and horror platforming games respectfully. Taking the tight controls and tense situations is a perfect fit for a lite platforming adventure and Tarsier Studios nails that integration. Taking many of its elements from the original, Little Nightmares 2 takes that aesthetic of the original and creepifies it so much more. With a breakout approach to the genre in 2017, the follow-up allows the suspenseful horror to take form. Where once seemingly eerie scenes envelop the player, the sequel takes a more subtle approach allowing for the scene to gradually crescendo into a full horror experience. Little Nightmares 2 showcases a great departure from its cramped origins. Where Little Nightmares feels like a bottled-up experience, its sequel allows for the scale and shape to take focus.
Frightfully Frolicking Through The Night
After an intro cutscene setting the mood of an unknown, the story opens on the iconic Mono. Sitting innocently and candidly walking through a field is a tone-setting moment that’s gradually unforgettable. When starting, the areas can be peaceful with a hint of unsettling energy filling the room. Yet as you progress the feeling of something sinister never stops inching forward until it unleashes. Sooner or later, Mono meets with Six, the protagonist from the first game acting in a companion role. As they journey across their larger-than-life world, Six assists with reaching high and wide spaces to travel around the various humans hunting the tiny heroes. Like any good suspenseful game, the tension rises, builds, and releases in such surprising and interesting ways that it always felt fresh. While some of the puzzles aren’t always explicit, it was always one easy misstep that makes the difference.
While exploration is encouraged to find collectibles, there isn’t a whole lot of split pathing and the game can feel very derivative. Despite not being open-world, there are plenty of shocking things to discover throughout your travels. The level theming to the boss fights is great and worth the struggle it can take to get past them. Overall the most frightful things are towards the end and it is an overall satisfying continuation. That’s not to say that the demo provides a weak experience, as how Tarsier wraps up the game is very enthralling. The only problem with titles like these is how boring it can be to replay them for collectibles. Thankfully it’s light on things to explore, but the secret ending that they unlock did have me begging for more content as the title albeit good is very brief.
Though, what does add to the overall charm of the game is just how long it stays around for giving players the time to build attachment. You start to care about Mono’s story as he travels with Six taking care of her and trying to survive with all the means that they can. It’s endearing and it gets wrapped up in a very interesting way. By the end of the journey, the trepidation had me wondering why there wasn’t more as they had a great fleshed-out story that could have carried on a few more scenes without overstaying its welcome. I much prefer this to horror titles like The Medium that can start to drag as their concept wears thin. Whatever the case may end up being, there was certainly room for an expectation of more gameplay that I hope to see realized. Despite where it wrapped up feeling odd, it does make me hopeful for more meaningful DLC in the future or even a full third act in the works.
While there isn’t a whole lot you can make Mono do, the tools you can use are versatile enough and it only adds to the chilling experience. There’s an emphasis on disempowering the player and that’s most evident in the brief combat. Sometimes picking up a long stick or hammer can allow Mono to smash enemies and break through barriers. Only further adding to that rising tension that eventually has you crashing it all down literally. It’s that exact tasteful use of these mechanics that make the world feel small but never unconquerable. The limited gameplay itself is helpful for players who haven’t played many titles or want a laid-back experience. It reins in the players’ expectations for what can be done.
Disturbingly Delightful Presentation
Nonetheless, I never had the impression of the game unfairly treating its situations or asking too much from the player. It strikes a nice contrast between players who like having that control over games and placing restrictions in the right ways. Patience is usually the most important thing, but sneaking almost always will make the difference. With such a limited move pool, using all of Mono’s options is essential to staying alive. Only further, this adds to the ambiance of size, playing with the player’s preconceived notion of scale is a great game design choice. Accentuating the dreary and dark palette that becomes even more vibrant and drastic as the game goes on. Color is so key and sparsely used that it’s fitting to have some of the more story-heavy sections rely on it.
The graphics carry the title the most, nailing the accentuated creepiness that a smaller setting aids in. Walking through buildings and landscapes always gave a scary sense of scale that sets the tone few games can attest to doing. Yet as oxymoronic as it may sound, the situations and other details make the player feel claustrophobic in a suspenseful way. That flow coalesced through the levels and made a horrifyingly rewarding experience. As you become more comfortable with your increasingly scarier circumstances, so does the game. The visuals are engrossingly disgusting in a way that’s very elegant and never overly gory in their presentation. While the dirty aesthetic is befitting the theme, it starts to sink in over the iterations of Little Nightmares 2’s various locations. The glossy porcelain-like look overall eerily adds to the demented art style. The faces do have an uncanny art style which is what continues to create and maintain the atmosphere.
Coupled with the expert sound design, the world can be so much larger than these shadow box scenes might seem. It’s interesting just how key a few tiny little things contribute to the game. The music itself also has a few tracks that set the tone in a great way. It works best when overlaid lightly alongside the sounds. Allowing for the scenes to breathe and not be cluttered with an overly suspenseful soundtrack. The title allows for gameplay to speak for itself as silence can be the most terrifying thing of all. Yet, whether it’s traversing through the hospital hallways or a wide-open city; there’s never a dull moment to waste as the vast emptiness awaits.
Little Nightmares 2 brings bite-sized horror that can satiate a horror fiend’s appetite. The arid creepiness seeps through each stage and its brevity will leave players asking for more nightmares. Leaving room for more to come, it’s a horrifying addition begging for a sizable concluding third act.
- Excellent atmosphere and tone
- Varied level design
- Easy to fully complete
- Expensive for a short title
- Little replayability