I’ve owned the original Little Nightmares for a while now, had it sat in my library on the PS4 staring at me every time I’m looking for something to play. However, as I’m not a massive fan of stealth and running away from things, I never actually got around to playing it due to knowing it would trigger some form of anxiety when I come face-to-face with one of the abominations. But, after playing the demo for Little Nightmares II, I was blown away with just how creepy the game was, quickly becoming a fan of the art style and gameplay, so playing and reviewing this sequel became an essential event.
Tarsier Studios are back, they’ve taken everything great about the first game (which I have now played, after completing the second game) and enhanced it to deliver a truly terrifying and F’ed-up experience unlike anything else I’ve played on the platform recently. Bandai Namco is, once again, the publishers of this spooky series, delivering various versions which I’ll get into later – for the review, we were given the Digital Deluxe edition and I’ve been playing it on the PlayStation 5 through Backwards Compatability mode. However, a full PS5 (and Xbox Series) version is coming later this year, free of charge to owners of the last-gen edition on both platforms.
So, considering I’m not a fan of the two core gameplay mechanics within Little Nightmares II, why have I played through the game twice and loved (almost) every second of it? Let’s find out…
Where do I begin with Little Nightmares II, I have to tread carefully as I don’t want to reveal aspects of the game which could be taken as ‘spoilers’, yet I was so confused and unsure of what was going on that I’m actually finding it hard to think about and form an overview of the plot.
So, let’s give this a bash and see how vague I can keep the overview… Little Nightmares II is the story of Mono, a new miniature child who has awoken within a dark and twisted world which is full of Big Nightmares, nevermind little ones. Explained through the art of atmospheric exploration, no verbal communication, and grotesque imagery, our goal in this horrific world slowly begins to come together – there’s a distant tower which is letting off a hypnotic ‘hum’, distorting the monstrosities and inhabitants into hostile freaks.
As such, with the help of a friendly companion which you find early on, the girl known as ‘Six’ from the first game (it’s on the official Steam listing page), you set out to discover the dark secrets behind this tower, picking up hats and bumping into static-memories as you go. Just like the first game, expect lots of tense moments, horrifyingly large boss-like creatures, stealth segments, and a creepy art style which will haunt you in your sleep. But, has the gameplay improved over the first game or is it a carbon-copy with a few skin-swaps? Let’s take a look…
Did I mention I’m not a fan of stealth and running away from things? I think I did, but it’s worth emphasising this once again. Horror games are my most avoided genre, if I’m being honest, I love psychological horror games but they always seem to have chase sequences which stress me out or stealth moments where I just can’t remain hidden and end up dying over and over again. Little Nightmares II is a game built around stealth, running away, and problem-solving – I like problem-solving. However, aside from a few very frustrating and border-line ripping my hair out moments in the game, I actually really enjoyed the overall experience, all thanks to how well the game had been put together and paced out.
Little Nightmares II basically has the above three gameplay mechanics presented in a rotation. You’ll first enter an area which is dark and creepy, often with ambient noises which’ll make you question your sanity, yet you won’t be able to progress due to a locked door, switches that are too high, a dead end, or some other form of natural road-block for our tiny protagonist (seriously, he is really small, like a gnome – but not a ‘Nome’ as they’re also in the game with Pyramid-head hats). In order to work out how to proceed, you need to step back and think outside of the box, see what objects you can move, can you climb anything, is there an object (usually a shoe) you can pick up and throw, or can Six give you a boost?
The game features no hand-holding at all (well, aside from the adorable feature that you can hold Six’s hand and pull her around with you so she doesn’t feel abandoned), requiring you to both work out what the obstacle is and how to overcome it yourself. Yes, I did get stuck for a while at one point in the game, subsequently shouting at myself when I realised there was a climbable surface on the wall which led to the next room! Because of this, the game is incredibly satisfying once you find the solution all on your own after sitting there for a while thinking about what you need to do, it’s so much better than literally being pointed in the right direction.
Overall, I loved the exploration and problem-solving aspects of Little Nightmares II, wandering around the dark and creepy hallways with very little lighting really pulls you into the world and leaves you vulnerable for the next two gameplay mechanics…
In each chapter, you’ll eventually come across the disturbing boss-like creature which will haunt you from then until you reach the next chapter. I’m not going to talk about all of them, but I was personally creeped out by the teacher – she’s an old wrinkly strict woman whose neck can extend longer than Mr. Tickle’s arms! There’s no point hiding in a vent, under a desk, or in the rafters, if she’s heard you, she turns into Inspector Gadget’s demonic twin and thrusts her neck out like it’s a snake as her head searches every nook and cranny. There are other beings which are just as bad, but she was the one which creeped me out the most.
Avoiding these monsters usually involves stealth, both doing the duck-walk and sneaking past them, or throwing something as a distraction whilst you make a run for it in the other direction. Despite my hate for stealth games, I didn’t actually find these moments too bad as they’re quite forgiving and I didn’t mind taking my time because it meant I had the chance to stop and look at the brilliantly disgusting visuals every time I stopped and hid behind a box or under a table.
The frustration kicked in for me when the game moves into its chase segments – usually following a difficult or intense stealth part. These aren’t impossible, and I had fun playing them, but I always get anxiety and sweaty thumbs when I’m being chased down a small corridor by something straight out of Jim Henson’s rejection bin! These are very strict with their timings, easy to mess up, and if you die then you’ll usually have to complete the whole segment again – unless if you’re lucky enough to hit a checkpoint. As you probably imagined, I died more times than I cared to count whilst doing these, usually by miss-timing a jump, not dodging harassing hands as they break through the doors around me, forgetting which way I’m meant to run, and being distracted and not even realising I’m in a chase segment!
But, after going back and playing the first game, I actually think the chases in Little Nightmares II are a bit more forgiving and well-designed than the first game. Well, until the game introduces smaller and more annoying enemies!
Know your enemy
Again, I’m not going to talk in detail about all of the people and things you’ll encounter, but I am going to talk about two of them – the puppet children and the mannequins – oh sweet Jesus, the mannequins…
The puppet kids are a little bigger than our petite protagonist, yet they’re about 1,000 times more hostile and deadly. These pesky pupils will chase after you if you make a noise in their class or they make eye contact with you, not stopping until they tear you apart and have themselves a new toy to play with. As such, you need to pick up standard-sized weapons, such as hammers, and thrust them with all of your might into their stupid faces, causing their head to shatter into a thousand pieces.
This process is just as stressful as the running segments (especially with other enemies you encounter later) as they move whilst you attack very slowly, often opening yourself up to a counter-attack and death. But, even though they can cause frustration and indirectly make you swear at the TV every time you miss and get ripped apart like a piece of paper, it’s incredibly satisfying to watch their head explode when you land that perfect swing…
Now, have you ever seen Doctor Who, the episode with the Weeping Angels (also in the Doctor Who VR game we covered HERE)? Well, the mannequins follow the same principle – if you stop looking at them then they’ll come to life and begin to move. Okay, it’s a little different as they’ll move if you’re not shining a light at them, but that’s almost the same as looking at them as you shine your torch forwards. These, apart from the teacher, were the things which freaked me out the most.
You don’t know fear until you’ve turned off the lights and begin running through a whole hoard of these horrors, trying to make it to the end alive before one of them grabs you and turns off your light for good!
A ray of light (controls)
To keep things simple, the developers have kept the same controls as the first game – as in, they’re literally the same. This is both a good and bad idea, due to how the mechanics differ slightly in this latest title. Basically, in the first game, you had a lighter which you could whip out whenever you pushed Circle, lighting up a small area around Six and used to activate various candles and lanterns which are scattered around. In Little Nightmares II, you don’t have the practical Zippo to hand, you’ll actually spend the majority of the game with nothing to light the darkness around you.
However, in a few chapters, you’ll thankfully be given a torch which you can, once again, activate with the Circle button. But, unlike the lighter, a torch emits a ray of light in a specific direction, not a cascade of light which surrounds you like a bubble. Why is this an issue? Remember those Mannequins which I hate, the ones which require you to shine a light at them? Well, you aim your torch with the combination of the Left Stick (to face them) and the Right Stick (to aim or swivel the torch). But, in one segment you have to aim at them so they can’t grab you, whilst also running through them to avoid being caught – run is Square.
If you’ve ever used a PS4 or PS5 controls, imagine moving with the Left Stick, aiming with the Right Stick, and holding Square – all at the same time. You’re forced to hold the controller like one of those silly “which way do you hold your controller” meme images on Twitter!
My solution, I was able to remap the run button to a rear paddle on my NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller, on the fly. This made it much more playable for me. However, not everyone will have a programmable controller – or the DS4 rear paddles (which will also really help) so what can you do? If you find the pre-defined controls too cumbersome (as you can’t remap them in the game), simply go to the dashboard of your PS4/5 and then go to Settings. In there, head to Accessibility then Controllers (it may be a little different on the PS4). In here, you can now enable Custom Button Assignments and swap around the various face buttons to other buttons or triggers.
Personally, I set run (square) to the L1 trigger when I wanted to play with my DualSense – just remember to disable the CBA when playing another game, otherwise, you’ll get confused as to why your character isn’t doing what you want them to do!
Is it scary?
As someone who tries to avoid horror games unless they really catch their interest with other mechanics and visuals, I am very vulnerable to jump scares and gruesome imagery. Put me in VR and turn on Rush of Blood and you’ll hear me screaming like my pants are on fire for the vast majority of the 10 mins I’ll be able to handle. So, it may shock you to hear that I wasn’t phased or triggered by most of the encounters in Little Nightmares II – that’s not to say that they weren’t freaky, shocking, disturbing, and grotesque, because they were, I just didn’t find them ‘too’ horrific.
I did, however, find myself shouting at the TV in frustration when I slipped up within a chase sequence, pulling faces and asking myself “WTF” when the on-screen creatures first appear, had a debate with myself over if the game was being fair or not when an enemy dodged one of my hammers, and constantly found myself confused throughout in regards to the story. Speaking of, I’ve played the game twice, I think I know what was happening and why (but I won’t say due to spoilers), but I still remain confused over a few things. But, I imagine they’ll be plenty of “Little Nightmares II: story explained” videos on YouTube within a few days of release.
The way I saw it, I was a strange child-like mini-me, with a cute companion, solving puzzles and running away from people who clearly wish to either eat me or do terrible things to my body. That was enough motivation for me to move from left to right as fast as possible!
The atmosphere, which is created by the subtle music, the ambient sounds, the echos of you calling out to Six so she doesn’t get ahead of herself, and strange noises randomly occurring in your ears, is brilliant. It all combines, with the smokey visuals, to deliver a haunting and creepy game without having to resort to cheap jump scares that go “Booom” every time a door opens or you walk into a new area. It’s a subtly horror game yet delivers its promise of embedding enough messed up imagery to cause you to have little nightmares.
I played Little Nightmares II on my PS5, meaning I technically played the PS4 Pro edition of the game on the PS5 via Backwards Compatability. As such, there are various limitations and cutbacks which I hoped wouldn’t be there – especially after playing the PS4 Pro version of the first game.
First of all, the game is 30fps. Seeing as games like God of War and The Division 2 have recently enabled a 60fps mode for new-gen consoles, I would have loved for this game to do the same. But, we have been promised that a PS5 and Xbox Series version will launch later this year – free to owners of the game on the PS4 and Xbox One consoles – so I imagine that’s the version which will fully unlock the framerate to 60fps (maybe even 120). Similarly, the resolution is whatever the Pro version is – it looks nice and sharp but I have no numbers. To me, it appears to be 1620+ (maybe even full 4K if it’s a dynamic scale).
We’ll have to wait for Digital Foundry to tell us the numbers, I think.
Framerate and resolution aside, Little Nightmares II is very clean and sharp, in comparison to the blurry original title, allowing you to see the small details much easier and truly appreciate the care and attention which went into every single design within the game. The various hats you pick up all look super cute upon your head, with some also changing the way you look as a whole once you don them. The visuals, music, audio, silence, and gameplay, all combine to create a brilliant experience which stands out as a very unique and original piece of art.
For our review, we were very kindly given the Digital Deluxe edition on the PS4. This edition contains the game (with free PS5 upgrade), The Nome’s Attic DLC, a Digital Soundtrack, a Digital Artbook, a Dynamic Theme (PS4), 2 Avatars, and the Mokujin Hat (although this may be only for pre-orders). The Art Book and Soundtrack are downloaded via PSN, allowing you to look at and listen to them on your TV or download the images and MP3s to an external USB drive for use wherever you wish.
The one thing I was confused about – and I’m sorry for pestering the PR with questions about this – is the Nome’s Attic DLC. Seeing as the previous game had actual DLC levels, I thought this was the same thing – it isn’t. All this DLC does is enable a puzzle early into the game which gives you the Nome’s hat. Seeing as the Deluxe edition gives all of the above for only £10 more, it’s fine, I just thought the DLC was actually going to be some form of DLC expanding the game. I imagine that’ll come later in the guise of a Season Pass or something.
If you’re into your physical editions, as well as the standard release, there’s a ‘TV Edition’ which you can pick up at various retailers. However, picking it up at the Bandai Namco store directly (HERE) will bag you a 3D Lenticular Art as an exclusive item, alongside the other items – which are: A really good looking Mono and Six Diorama, the Game, a themed box, the Soundtrack both digitally and on a CD, a physical Art Book, a Steelbook, Stickers, and both the Mokujin Mask and Nome’s Attic DLCs
Which one are you picking up?
Little Nightmares II is a great continuation of the grotesque exploration puzzle series. The game is a solo adventure, yet you’ll be joined by the protagonist of the previous game, both working together to discover the reason behind the strange signal and put an end to its hypnotic control. Some parts can get frustrating when trying to run away or solve a puzzle with a timer before you get slaughtered, but this only leads to a lot of satisfaction upon completion. Aside from a few issues with the controls, there’s very little to complain about within this brilliant no hand-holding horror game.
Whereas the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in terms of the gameplay, the updated visuals, immersive sound, confusing yet interesting story, and new gruesome freaks, all combine to ensure that after playing Little Nightmares II, you’ll be having ‘Little Nightmares’ of your own…
There is a demo for Little Nightmares II on all platforms, just search for the game on your preferred device. It lets you play around the first 30-40 minutes, giving you a taste for how the game looks and feels.
Little Nightmares II£24.99
- - Beautifully horrific visuals with a very thick atmosphere
- - Great use of sound to fully immerse you
- - The creatures you face are just as twisted and gruesome as the first game (if not more)
- - No hand-holding, making you feel satisfied every time you solve a puzzle or barrier
- - Creepy and disturbing without the need for cheap jump scares
- - The controls are a bit iffy with no way to remap within the game and almost unable to run whilst aiming your torch
- - The story, for me, was a little confusing