There’s a charming yet utterly haunting beauty that shines from Little Nightmares II, something that I have never seen captured in a game before. Similar to its predecessor, it feels like a fairytale that has been violently torn apart with some of the most intensely graphic and obscene abominations filling its place. It could make even the most hardened players wince at its ghastly sights and yet it does so without even showing that much blood and gore.
There has been a shift in the horror genre over the past decade, particularly with modern horror films such as Hereditary and Suspiria. These films relinquish jumpscares for something far more effective, creating a slow burn of fear throughout until an explosive barrage of violence and horror suddenly occurs at the end. Little Nightmares II applies the same strategy and gives it a slightly unique twist. Instead of the entire game being a slow burn, each level is instead treated like such, creating a montage of intense horror that doesn’t slow down until the credits start to roll.
It’s like each level has been ripped out of an anthology series. Sure there’s a story that extends over the entire game but every set piece feels so unique and different from the last that by the time you get comfortable with your surroundings, the game violently pushes you into another extremely uncomfortable and different situation.
Little Nightmares II without a doubt overshadows its predecessor in every way possible. I absolutely adored the original for its creative art style and for suggestively creating its horror, leaving the worst sights behind closed doors. However, its sequel does the opposite, showing the worst sights in plain view to disturb and distress the player and I love it for doing so. It manages to keep what made the original so fantastic, whilst also being different enough to stand by its own merits. I might sound hypocritical for approving of the game for doing the complete opposite of what I loved but in my opinion, that’s what sequels are supposed to do.
It is certainly much more morbid and tackles far more problematic issues than its predecessor. For example, there’s a section of the game that takes place within a school. It’s a horror trope for sure but it's one that the game uses to suggest themes of bullying and abuse from the students and teachers alike. In no way does Little Nightmares II try to make a comment on social issues but it was refreshing to see that it tries to make the player think and reflect on what they’ve seen rather than just attempting to frighten them.
The monster designs of Little Nightmares II are so horrifically disturbing that it makes the monsters from its predecessor look like they were taken out of a cartoon. I won’t say too much as this game is best experienced blind but the school section introduced a teacher so unnerving that it would send chills down my spine every time I ran into her. My teachers weren’t exactly the nicest bunch but thank god I never had to encounter HER during my time in school.
Unlike the first game, Little Nightmares II sometimes gives the player the ability to fight back against their foes instead of just running and hiding. Due to the obvious difference in size, the majority of the enemies you’ll come across will be impossible to fight against, but the sequel does introduce a few situations where you can defend yourself from enemies that are more your size. Unfortunately, it’s the biggest problem with the game as it becomes a tedious and stressful process that grinds the pace down to a painful stop.
The problem with the combat is that it allows no room for error, expecting the player to time and aim every single hit perfectly. There was even one section in which I had to tackle multiple enemies at once and in the nicest way possible, it was infuriatingly bad. Thankfully there’s only a handful of these scenarios in the game so it was not a massive problem. It still felt unnecessary, though, as if the game was forcing itself to cater to criticisms of the first game for its lack of combat.
Little Nightmares II is going to be an extremely harsh experience for anyone that didn’t play the first. It’s highly recommended that you do before tackling its sequel, mainly due to the continuation of its mind-boggling story. Instead of playing as Six from the original game, here you take control of Mono, a new voiceless protagonist that bumps into Six as she's still suffering from the events of the first game. The two of them embark on a horrifically twisted journey to find the source of a signal that has somehow killed off an entire town full of people leaving behind the worst abominations imaginable. The story of Little Nightmares II leads to many more questions than answers but an incredibly sinister twist ending gives a strong impression that Tarsier Studios have only just begun exploring this twisted universe.
It was refreshing this time around to have an AI companion follow me around for most of the game without them feeling like dead weight. Six, being a fan favourite from the first game, aids Mono by helping him to get to out-of-reach places and distracting enemies. Not once did having a companion take away from the horror effect, in fact, it only helped to make the experience more terrifying. Whenever I got split away from Six, I felt more helpless than I did before. There were a few times when Six would accidentally push me out of a hiding place for me to get devoured by a monster but it is an extremely small issue that I can look past.
Little Nightmares II is a masterclass in visual storytelling thanks to its extremely clever and talented level design. Fans of the first game will notice that Six is still hiding something truly evil. You’ll occasionally catch her doing things that are easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, such as breaking the fingers of a mannequin’s hand or subtly kicking a dead body. Her odd behaviour leads to some extremely subtle but effective dark humour that gives relief to the player suffering from the game’s intense atmosphere. You’ll come across pictures and symbols that foreshadow upcoming events and hidden rooms that establish secret connections to the first game. There are so many details that are incredibly easy to miss and players are rewarded for paying attention throughout the sequel’s 5–6 hour runtime.
Little Nightmares II is not just an incredible horror title but a fantastic sequel to its predecessor. It takes what made the original so unique and popular and twists it in such a way that it feels like a massive improvement in every single area. What it lacks in combat it makes up for with smartly crafted scares and spine-chilling monster design. It proves exactly why indie games and their studios should be the leaders of the industry thanks to its endless amount of creativity and ambition. The team over at Tarsier Studios should be extremely proud, and hopefully, this sets the standard for future games to come. It is clear from its cliffhanger ending that this is only the beginning of the next big horror franchise and I cannot wait to see where they take its universe next.
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