Tarsier Studios‘ puzzle-platformer Little Nightmares II proves that childhood fears can be frightening for adults, too.
Young boy Mono, together with little girl Six, explores the Pale City to find out why a mysterious TV signal makes people disappear or turn into monsters.
Weird story, characters, and setting
Despite being a prequel to Little Nightmares and featuring its main protagonist, this doesn’t mean one can make more sense of it characters and storyline after having played it, because both remain obscure, especially with an ending that is even more difficult to decipher.
Bad TV influences
If the whole idea of people staring into TVs and becoming monsters or disappearing altogether is meant as a metaphor for the danger of mass media consumption or not, remains something the player has to decide. Even without the social criticism, the effect is quite chilling: seeing clothes and shoes left behind, people running into screens or chasing after the flickering lights and falling from rooftops are all images one won’t easily get out of one’s head.
Children’s and no childish fears
Child abuse becomes another prevalent topic in the game, as one witnesses students being punished by a creepy teacher who uses her ruler the minute she hears a sound in the classroom. In contrast, school children made out of porcelain suddenly start attacking each other, resulting in a very disturbing anti-authority school hall scene one has to sneak by while being masked as one of them.
A world of living nightmares
Despite never really explaining anything, the game does a great job of creating a world that is both alien and familiar. In addition to the school with its snake-like teacher and porcelain students, the woods are inhabited by a hunter with a shotgun whose head is covered with a sack, while an abandoned hospital has moving mannequins, dismembered hands and a fat doctor who crawls on walls. The whole experience is weird and terrifying, and with the lack of clues what is going on, the player’s mind either accepts it or goes mad in the process.
Gameplay largely remains the same as in Little Nightmares: sneaking past or running away from enemies and solving a few puzzles along the way. The chase sequences are again very tense and memorable, using the larger-than-life environments and enemies to create some heart-stopping cinematic moments. These become very frustrating, though, as trial-and-error as well as perfect timing are essential to survive, especially with the last segment of the game being unnecessarily difficult to master.
The puzzles can sometimes be surprisingly inventive, e.g. using an X-ray apparatus to find a key inside a plush toy or collecting chess pieces that have to be set up in a specific order. Later one even uses TV screens to teleport from one to another, resulting in some Portal-like conundrums. Of course one still has to move around chairs, push objects, etc. to progress, with a fair bit of frustrating platforming involved.
Cooperatively being alone
Although both characters work together to solve puzzles, one only takes control of Mono, with Six acting automatically in the appropriate way, e.g. helping the boy climb or catching him after a long jump. This might seem like a missed opportunity for local co-op play, but it works surprisingly well, establishing a close relationship between the two characters not unlike artful games like ICO.
Lighting, fighting, and running for one’s life
A few new additions help to keep things fresh, but not always in a good way. While making creepy mannequins stop in their tracks with a flashlight can be thrilling, especially if they come from all sides, soon fight sequences with a hammer crop up.
Smashing dismembered hands or even bashing children’s porcelain heads in might fit the disturbing atmosphere, but combat is clunky and frustrating due to Mono’s very slow movements. Even more than the platforming sections, perfect timing is essential to get rid of enemies, but as their attack patterns can be erratic at times, these sections can be a real pain.
Terrifying to see and hear
Just as its predecessor, both graphics and sound design create the feeling of playing an animated horror movie. Using a limited viewpoint and effectively mixing light and shadows, the game does a great job of delivering an uneasy feeling when entering each new location, building up tension and horror by hinting at what is yet to come. It goes without saying that the disturbing creature designs and general animation work are excellent throughout.
The minimalist and beautiful soundtrack adds to the scary fairy tale atmosphere during exploration parts, but ramps up the terror with a cacophony of sounds when the protagonists are chased. Maybe the most unsettling moments are those when music is completely absent and one starts to shudder with each sound breaking the silence and telling of a new danger and another horrific sight lurking around the next corner.
More of the same effective horror experience
Little Nightmares II is just as terrifying and frustrating to play as its predecessor, even more so with its unnecessary and clunky combat sequences. Anyone expecting character and story development in a traditional sense will be disappointed, as its world building is just as strange as before. But it still achieves a sense of unparalleled horror with its perfect blend of nightmarish visuals and sounds that one perseveres through the most annoying parts.
Buy the digital standard edition for PS4 on
the PSN store
Buy the digital deluxe edition for PS4 on
the PSN store
Buy the digital version for Xbox One on
the Xbox store
Buy the digital version for Nintendo Switch on
the Nintendo eShop
Buy the retail version for PS4 on
Buy the retail version for Nintendo Switch on
If you liked reading this article, make sure to LIKE it or comment on it on EMR’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG or Amazon links and buying the products also helps ;).