I’m a wuss when it comes to horror games. I can’t stand being scared, I don’t find it enjoyable in the least bit. However, when there is something more than just trying to make me scared, I can occasionally push through the fear and continue on. Events like Knott’s Halloween Haunt, or games like Little Nightmares take the time to craft an intriguing world and an atmosphere that piques my interest enough for me to conquer those fears.
A couple years ago, my friend Sean recommended Little Nightmares to me, and even though it took over an hour to really get into it, I fell in love with a game that is so “not my style”, but really captured my curiosity. Being a basic platformer with minor puzzle solving really welded the supernatural and creepy atmosphere to the gameplay enough for me to finish it.
Little Nightmares 2 continues on with the original premise and gameplay of the first game while still sticking to the formula built in the original, it takes a new direction and expands on the game’s now fully built universe.
The formula is simple, take your character from the start of the game, and try to escape the areas while trying to explore and piece together what exactly is going on. Like I said before, the atmosphere is really the driving force for me in these games, and this game is chock full and dripping with spooky visuals and even some gross and putrid graphics. In what can only be described as Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark for Grown Ups, the series revels in making you cringe but rubberneck at the same time. Even when the level designs show massively gross monsters that make you want to turn the game off, you still can’t look away because the lighting of the game removes a lot of the details in the shadows.
Each level houses a “big bad” of sorts that you must maneuver around and escape the location without being caught. Environments like the School, with the Strict Teacher with the long neck who chases you down, or the Hunter with the Cabin In The Woods constantly trying to shoot you really get your heart pumping with fear of not being caught. And while I think the locations are varied enough, it just didn’t give me the same sense of awe and wonder that the original game gave me. I found myself wishing I was back on “The Maw'' several times while sprinting through the rain soaked streets that seem to be there just to hide level loads.
One of the more disappointing issues for me was that the game relied more heavily on combat, and with the 2.5D nature of the game, and the more diorama side scrolling static camera, there were plenty of deaths that felt like I had the core concept right away, but had trouble lining up the attack properly. And this is doubly an issue as the game spends so much time crafting these special moments, only to have you fail and do them over and over again, taking out all the excitement because the event was too closely timed to be more exciting.
I never have understood how people learn more of the story or even characters in the game when none of it is ever actually explained. I’m assuming that most people are just looking online and going into the official forums to get more information about these characters, but I played through both games and the DLC and I couldn’t tell you any character names, even the main characters that you play as. While doing a bit of research, I learned that the original game’s character was called Six, and the character you control in the second game is called Mono…. Why? How does anyone know that? It’s never told or explained in any of the games, so this must only be told outside of the game, which isn’t a great way to make a story… It really isn’t that important, but I do hate having to go outside of the game to learn about the game. If you want to make a larger connected universe in your games, and have characters with names, that type of information needs to be in the game somehow. It wouldn’t be hard to have a small title card explaining the characters and their motivations, even if it was just a few lines.
Other than those small issues, I really did love playing Little Nightmares 2. I found the game feeling much larger in scope, and even if that is because of the wider amount of more varied locations, or even something like the artificial loading areas, that world builds a bit as you go through the empty spaces between levels.
Your character Mono comes across the first game’s protagonist Six fairly early in the game, and you spend the majority of the game's five hours having Six tag along trying to escape the dangers behind you. Six is only AI controlled, but never gets in the way that most escort mission characters do. It was a nice change of pace, and even having a single mute character by my side vastly improved my attitude and diminished my fears as I played the game. I always appreciate that I am not alone in my pursuit, even when in reality it is just me playing by myself in my family room at 2:00 AM.
The ending did disappoint me, and I did not care for it, since it really does just try to set up a third game. And since the game doesn’t explain anything, It’s up to you to figure out what exactly is going on with the ending and it feels like a very lazy way of wrapping up a story that otherwise was really interesting. I won’t spoil it here, but the motivations don’t add up and the confusing possible time travel element just doesn’t make sense.
Combat, Physics, and some repetition trial and error are some of the only complaints I have about the game. And while they are large issues, I can put them aside and reflect back on the game with fond memories and a great appreciation for a game genre that I never thought I would like at all. I can’t wait to see the next game in the series in a few years from now, and will happily buy it day 1 again, just like I did with this second game. Because even though I hate being scared, Little Nightmares really is something special and doesn’t get hung up on all the horror tropes and just wants to make a very odd and heartfelt game… with a coat of rotting flesh and flies buzzing around a bucket of slime.