When was the last time you felt like you couldn’t escape from a dream? Even after you had awoken, the remnants of emotions you felt still influenced your mood and perception of the world. That’s how I felt once I had finished Little Nightmares 2; a flood of emotions tastefully evoked by Tarsier Studios’ latest game. Little Nightmares 2 is a side-scrolling psychological horror game set in a pseudo-3D environment that will be available across all consoles and PC.
For such a disturbing experience, it’s hard not to marvel at the extraordinary attention to detail that welcomes you. A delicate blend of hand-drawn backdrops and claymation characters creates a sense of unease as you discover the remains of a world that once was. It is made even more unsettling by the scale of the environment since you are a fifth of the size of most things around you giving the term ‘a cat and mouse chase’ a whole new meaning. Each chapter of the game is unique to the previous one; overgrown swamp lands littered with viscera lead into dilapidated buildings and desolated cities.
These features are complemented by smart geometry placements and the traditional ominous lighting. One of the smartest decisions in creating the atmosphere, however, was the soundtrack… or a lack thereof. The very essence of our nightmares is our thoughts, so leaving the player in strategic silence produced some of the best moments of the game, but once the music starts and a shiver crawls up your spine, you begin to miss the sound of silence.
A minimalist approach to the control scheme makes the game widely accessible and streamlines the feel. Mastering the character movements is as simple as run, jump, grab and crouch with as many buttons to use. The fixed camera guides you either left or right, displaying more open areas and allowing you to explore the depth of a room. Escaping this nightmare will require you to conquer appropriately themed traps and puzzles through problem-solving and often good timing. Downright creepy and harrowing bosses drive the narrative in each chapter, and each one has left me with a distinctly unpleasant memory.
Will power plays a significant part in your decision making. When you are being hunted, will you make the right choice? When everything urges you to run, can you keep calm and hold out that little while longer in that hiding spot? Rarely will you be on the offense, but it can be immensely satisfying to release your pent up anxiety on the little nightmares that have been tormenting you when the opportunity presents itself.
Outside of the initial on-screen prompts to let you know what a button does, you are presented with a clean slate. Having no HUD helps with the immersion and makes the sudden and sometimes violent deaths that much more impactful. Speaking of dying, unless you have been blessed with ultra instinct, you will probably die. A lot. During my 8 hour playthrough, I died many times experimenting with the world while I learned the rules of engagement.
Luckily the checkpoints are often and the load times are almost instant, so even when I did die, I was never set back an unfair amount and was always encouraged to give it another shot. Each chapter presents its obstacles and rules which must be respected. Not everyone’s playthroughs will be the same, but there isn’t much room for your creativity.
I am thankful for the companion they have introduced, even if accompanying characters are just one more annoyance you have to babysit. Your companion will never give you away if you hide while they stand in plain sight, and they will offer subtle hints on where to go without explicitly holding your hand. I felt responsible for their well being and a pang of guilt when I had to leave them to accomplish my tasks. The long stretches of isolation are washed away with a sigh of relief when we were reunited and I genuinely felt a sense of companionship.
A nightmare is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong emotional response from the mind, typically fear, but also despair anxiety, or great sadness. Trying to convey this without speaking a single word is a difficult task and leaving things open to interpretation often added to the experience for me. I’ll admit that I probably left the game with more questions than I did going in, but once it was all said and done, I reflected on how it all came together and everything I went through. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.
- Stunning visuals
- Easy control scheme
- Great pace and flow
- Memorable experience
- Fixed camera can cause annoying deaths
- I wish there was more