When it comes to horror and creepiness in games, I’m much more inclined to enjoy the psychological variety than out and out gore. The original Little Nightmares seemed to lean into that route hard but I never got around to playing more than an hour or so unfortunately. I was keen to rectify this with the sequel and man, what a wild ride those 6 or so hours were.
I lost count of the amount of times I physically recoiled thanks to some of the abominations and abstract designs presented on screen. Tarsier Studio have really nailed just what it takes to morph something as simple as a human adult into true nightmare fuel. The jittery movements, blood curdling moans and groans, and the often slightly obscured-but-still-messed-up facial features all combine into a title that isn’t just scary, but capital-C Creepy. Without going into too much detail, the second main antagonist we come across still gives me the shivers just thinking about how they interact with us.
It’s not just the enemies that are going to keep us up though; the levels are full of abstract designs, all over-blown proportions rotted with decay and rubble, and we get the sense that not only is it crumbling around us but actively trying to kill us too. As with the original, our character is dwarfed by everything around them, making even something as simple as pushing a door open turn into a herculean task. When we’re presented with the need to do some of this while also being pursued…well, I’m not sure I’ve ever gripped harder on the triggers while willing the little guy to scramble up that ledge quickly.
Audio work helps cement the atmosphere that the visuals lay down. It’s fairly minimal for the most part but there’s always a slight hum or oppressive ambient noise to keep us company, then during some of the bigger moments this turns into ear piercingly loud shrieks and sharp violins that get the heart racing.
All this is to say then, that playing Little Nightmares 2 can be quite tense. We play as Mono, who is similar in stature as the original game’s Six – that is to say, vastly smaller than almost everything around them. All story is delivered wordlessly, hinted at in the set dressing or brief non-interactive scenes, and paints a picture of oppression, anger, and hatred, with a small glimmer of hope thrown in for good measure. It’s not a joyous game to play, but it is incredibly touching and engrossing. Each time I failed to help Mono escape one monster or another I felt genuinely bad (especially with how gruesome some of their deaths are, if not visually then at least implied) and the little crunch they make as the body hits the ground after a big fall made me wince. I did feel this made the moments of triumph that much more elating though; just making it out of an enemies grasp as the world falls down around them, or leading one into an electrified pool just in the nick of time, these moments were small but awesome victories for Mono and myself.
Physics play a part in the solutions to puzzles, though not so much so to cause random failures or the like. Setting a trolley rolling so we can jump on it might seem daunting at first, but in reality it’s pretty hard to mess up the trajectory thanks to smart level design. Mono is able to pick up items as well as weapons this time out, and these brief moments of battle are equally tense. Be it a hammer or axe, they are far too heavy for them to wield easily, and a mistimed attack is enough to see our demise. Thankfully Tarsier don’t over do these sections, and as such each of them remain fun and fresh to play throughout.
Otherwise, much carries over from Little Nightmares. Mono can jump, climb, and sneak through rooms as those monstrous adult figures roam around. Using shadow and sound to distract is often the way forward, and occasionally we need to put ourselves in harm’s way for a second to progress. I’m reminded of the excellent pacing of Inside, where Playdead have crafted each scene to a tee, keeping the danger very real but also letting us just about pull off what we need to do the survive. Only a handful of sections approached frustration (an area that relies on a torch later on proved a particular sticking point), but mostly these were small snippets in otherwise immaculately designed areas.
There are a few collectibles to look out for (new hats for Mono and ghostly apparitions of other children) but without hunting them all out we managed to beat the game in about 7 hours. It’s a perfect length in our opinion, keeping the tension up throughout and not over egging the pudding to the point of dulling the atmosphere.
While I wouldn’t say Little Nightmares 2 is a ‘fun’ time, it’s certainly an entertaining one. Creepy visuals and audio suck us in, and some smart, well-paced puzzles and set pieces keep us hooked for the duration. A few of these teeter on annoyance at times, but are also short enough to never actually make us want to stop playing. A strange, creepy delight of a game, Little Nightmares 2 deserves to stand out as one of the best releases of the year.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.