Some minor pacing and gameplay issues aside, Little Nightmares 2 is a brilliant sequel that will delight as much as it will hauntingly persist.
There is a lot to be said for a game that creates a spooky atmosphere. While full-blown horror titles have often tried and failed to really get under my skin, Little Nightmares 2 slowly seeped into my pores. It’s not a game that goes out of its way to surprise, its appearance on the surface seems quite tame among its horror stablemates, but the nightmares depicted here are truly insidious.
Six, the main character from the original game, becomes an AI partner here, with Mono at the helm. Functionally little has changed, with the lack of a yellow raincoat being the main difference between the two. Having a compatriot for most of the story means that pseudo-cooperative gameplay elements have been incorporated, changing the feel of the game significantly from the start. Everything works perfectly too, as Six knows when to help. Not once during my game did I feel like Six was being troublesome.
This may seem like a rather clumsy compliment, but my fond memories of the previous game are marked by feelings of frustration and annoyance. These headaches were often due to awkward interactions with objects or obtuse puzzles. This sequel improves the first one so much that I rarely had trouble interacting with key elements and as such the whole game flows so much better. Little puzzles, like picking up a partial chess piece and placing it on top of a broken piece, may have been quite tedious in the first game, but it’s not a problem here.
The puzzles are very varied throughout the five chapters of the game, which was necessary since the game time is slightly longer than Little Nightmares. These are sometimes standalone, but at some points Mono will get access to a tool that is key to puzzles in that area. For the most part, the challenge here is laid out just to make you feel smart rather than dumb, though a few moments with a flashlight prove to be a bit tedious and annoying, especially since they involve Mono trying to evade the scariest of all. horror creations: living mannequins.
What is not so simple is the introduction of basic combat. Since you’re in a world where everything is too big or out of the reach of young children, the weapons you pick up for occasional fights are oversized and heavy. Swinging a pipe or hammer is slow and slow, making it easy to time a hit, and if you are attacked, you are immediately returned to the previous checkpoint. This is never that far off, but if you don’t manage to take out an enemy because you wasted your time by a small amount, and this happens a couple of times in a row, it can start to annoy you.
Being picky, I wish developer Tarsier Studios had been a bit more forgiving on some points. On multiple occasions, you are asked to complete tasks with a time limit, if you don’t, Monkey will be grabbed by whatever bestial creature is stalking you. For sheer reason, some of these moments felt unfairly designed, making success on a first try almost impossible. These aren’t tricky areas of the game, but on first inspection, the path to success just doesn’t come to mind quickly enough and as a result, you lose the rhythm of the game and you’re thrown back at a checkpoint. A slightly lighter touch at times would have given some exciting moments more room to impress as full sequences.
Criticisms may be loud and swift, but it’s only because these problem areas stand out as clear outliers in what is otherwise a very impressive production. One area that really cannot be faulted is visual aesthetics and audio design. As in the original, the images represent a world and characters that walk the line between the real and the surreal. There is a hospital, but its inhabitants are creepy as shitty mannequins; There is a school, but the teacher has a fucking Beetlejuice neck. At any moment, Little Nightmares 2 teeters on the brink of Jack and the Beanstalk fantasy and the full-blown Lovecraftian cosmic horror of In the Mouth of Madness. It is wonderful.
Little Nightmares 2 is an excellent sequel that maintains the impressive tone of the original, but improves on all key areas. This isn’t explosive horror, there’s no blood or torture, and for the most part you’re jumping on levers, solving puzzles, and climbing up furniture, but that doesn’t mean Tarsier didn’t create an outstanding horror experience.
Tested version: Xbox One – played on Xbox Series X. The publisher provided a copy of the game for this Little Nightmares 2 review. Little Nightmares 2 is available for Xbox One (compatible with Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S), PS4 (compatible with with PS5), Nintendo Switch and PC. The versions to measure of PS5 and Xbox Series X | S will be available later in 2021.