Well, it’s tale as old as time – boy finds girl, boy and girl escape crazy giant with a shotgun, boy and girl avoid man-eating teacher with stretchy, snake-like neck, boy gets sucked into TV. And so on and so forth, you know, the usual…
I just finished Little Nightmares 2 and I loved it. I’m not normally one for creepy horror type games, but this one was free to play for Stadia pro subscribers, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
And I’m so glad I did. Once I started playing it, I couldn’t stop.
The art style is creepy, like a grungy Tim Burton film.
I was immediately reminded of Limbo and Inside, two side-scrolling puzzle platformers that had their own creepy style.
I loved the way those games were able to build an entire world and convey a story with no dialogue, entirely through environmental storytelling. And Little Nightmares 2 is no different.
In fact, I would dare say it’s far more effective at endearing its characters to the player.
You play as Mono, a small child who, like most small kids must, sees the world as this large space with huge adults that dwarf them. Everything is a bit scary.
But this is also a survival tale. The adults are all scary monstrous beings that will attack Mono on sight. The world seems to be full of dangers that could hurt Mono if you’re not careful.
He eventually finds another little kid, who most people will know as Six, the protagonist of the first Little Nightmares game.
Mono frees her from captivity and the two set out to escape the hunter that had been holding her captive.
But every new place they find is full of other terrors that threaten them at every turn.
So they work together as they journey toward the heart of The Pale City where a Signal Tower seems to be emitting a strange broadcast that seems to be warping the residents into the twisted beings that constantly threaten Mono and Six.
I’ll leave the story description at that, just to avoid getting into any potential spoilers, but suffice it to say there is a lot of world building and story being delivered for a game that has no written or spoken dialogue.
The game also never gives you terminals to read or written notes to find either.
Everything is conveyed within the set pieces themselves.
And the sound design is absolutely fantastic. It adds another layer of creepy on an already creepy art style. But it’s also used in clever ways.
At the school, the way the teacher taps on the chalkboard as if emphatically putting an end to a sentence serves as a reference to the player to know to find cover before she turns around again.
There’s even a sequence that involves following the sound of music to know which order to enter certain doorways that had me utterly confused until I put on a pair of headphones and heard the directional sound guiding me.
There are also collectibles.
In the early going, I found a hat… a little davy crocket, coon-skinned cap, and the game told me I could equip it and other hats in the menu as I found them.
And I went, oh this is gonna be a thing as I go through this game, I’m gonna be trying to interact with every possible thing, checking every nook and cranny for collectibles and goofy hats.
And then of course the big scary looking man with a shotgun started chasing me and I ran.
And that was that. I didn’t find another hat or collectible or anything. Because the game was so creepy, I was often way too concerned with where the big bad monster person was to even consider trying to find the silly hats hidden away in each area.
But when you do die the game is good about getting you back into the action quickly. It has a good checkpoint system that made it so that if I did died, I was never forced to replay long sections.
In fact, it’s one of those games where when you enter a new area, you almost have to die to figure out how to get through it.
There always tended to be some sort of trap or something would jump out at you and kill you and often there was no way to know it was going to happen. So it was only possible to avoid it the second time.
And that’s really the only slight problem I had with the game. It was so effective at being creepy and scary and having these terrifying creatures that would come after you, but dying a few times to them robbed them of their power. Suddenly it just became an annoying thing I had to deal with that was preventing me from progressing.
Because it would halt the pacing a bit. And it would draw out some of those moments robbing them of the suspense they may have had.
For instance, a lot of the time when the game shifted into chase mode, which it did fairly often, it took me a second to realize that it was switching from puzzling, platforming and hiding to run away mode. And the only way to survive the chase sequence was to have been running from word go. Which meant I would get close to escaping but wouldn’t quite make it. Then I’d have to replay the chase, so I could actually get out. And the chase was certainly not nearly as suspenseful the second, or third time.
And if that became frustrating once, it would be frustrating again multiple times after that because each chapter of the game, or each new area you enter, follows a similar outline.
It begins with some platforming and puzzles, then you sneak around the main antagonist of the section as the game introduces them, that may involve more platforming sections, then later you end up being chased by the antagonist and that’s how you know you’re about done with that section.
And yet… every time I knew the section was going to turn into a chase, it still had my heart pumping every time it happened.
So regardless of whether the game starts settling into a familiar formula after a while, everything else its doing is so effective, that… it works. I never minded it. So even the little frustrations like having to replay moments multiple times, or even the way it can be difficult at times jumping and platforming in a 3D world from a 2D perspective, never seemed to keep me from moving forward.
The game is roughly 4-6 hours depending on how long it takes you to figure out the puzzles and how many times it takes you to escape the monsters.
It’s a trip well worth taking.
Recently the developer of the Little Nightmares games confirmed it is done making games in the series and plans to focus on creating a new IP. That’s a bit of a bittersweet announcement.
IGN said in an article that the decision likely comes down to the fact that publisher Bandai Namco owns the Little Nightmares IP because the first game was made and released under Bandai Namco, but Embracer, the developer of the games, was acquired by Tarsier Studios in 2019. So most likely they’d rather not license the franchise or try to buy it.
However, Bandi Namco told IGN they wouldn’t rule out making more games in the franchise, saying quote, “”We have nothing to announce at this moment, but since we received so much love from fans all around the world with the release of Little Nightmares 2, we feel energized to deliver more content in the future.”
Idk know how I feel about giving a developers’ creative vision to someone else to do what they please with, but I am excited to see what the talent at Embracer comes up with next.