Little Nightmares II is a truly impressive horror game. Based on the great work from 2017, Little Nightmares II is a brutal sequel with 5 chapters full of funny nightmares. The game combines a unique aesthetic and exceptional sound design to create a really solid game that is somehow scarier than the original while building on what made the first game so good and taking it to new heights.
Reaching these heights is made possible by a new twin between our protagonist Mono and the return of the first hero, Six, this time with AI. But before we get there, let’s get to Little Nightmares II itself.
The opening game is important because we will return to it several times during the 4 to 6 hours of play, but Mono will be bursting alone in the forest in front of the screen by the end. Armed with his intelligence and a brown bag on his head (which can be exchanged for various hats collected during the adventure), you will lead this faceless boy through increasingly difficult and dangerous chapters. All of which will lead you to discover the truth about your origins.
This origin is certainly evoked in the game, starting with the fact that you encounter the protagonist of the first game, Six, who was shivering and wearing a cape. This time, however, it plays a supporting role in the adventure, helping you (literally) more than once to survive this nightmarish race of fear.
But that’s easier said than done, and usually, you’ll have to die multiple times to find the solution to some puzzles or devilish traps. Nothing here rivals the visual difficulty of, say, Super Meat Boy, but there are certainly some difficult segments.
What begins as a relatively simple matter – dodging bear traps and running for ropes – soon becomes a much more urgent and dangerous matter. Some truly difficult obstacles must be overcome in the chapters that follow.
These obstacles are perfectly overcome thanks to Mono’s ability to take revenge on his enemies. As in Alien: Isolation, however, you never feel overwhelmed by these weapons, and they only serve to slow down the nervous horde of scary creatures you’re chasing. This action mainly takes the form of lazily waving axes or snakes at enemies, although it does introduce some annoying combat mechanics.
While the game certainly captures its languid feel for painful ax swings, this comes at the cost of unclear hitboxes and a few cheap deaths. For example, I hit an approaching enemy several times, only to have him dodge or stop dead in his tracks and suffer a cheap death. Hitbox detection is also somewhat erratic at times, especially during the sections in Chapter 3. These moments are thankfully rare, but it’s hard not to feel like the mechanics sometimes prevent the game from being the horror masterpiece it wants to be.
Aesthetically, Little Nightmares II is absolutely stunning. Playable on the PS5, the game has amazing graphical fidelity, with impressive weather effects that are really sharp and add amazing depth to each level. Raindrops hit the ground, while runoff water flows freely across the ground. Small puddles are formed and shake in strong wind gusts, while the sinister candles inside flicker and dance on the walls.
There are also many detailed interiors, with tables full of objects that can be moved, discarded, and manipulated. There are even some designs that require you to play with them, and it’s great to see this level of depth from Tarsier Studios.
It’s hard to explain how beautiful this game is, and it’s all compounded by drawings of nightmarish characters that seem to come straight out of a Coraline cartoon. Instead of smiling mothers with piercing eyes, we see a hunter with a shotgun and probably the scariest teacher you’ve ever seen. I’m not going to give away the rest, but suffice it to say that this game brings very creative creatures to life.
However, the bulk of the game is a mix of puzzle-solving and platforming with great chases and battles against bosses. Each chapter is also very similar in structure, with the exploration providing a full and engaging overview of the big bad for this volume.
There are several adrenaline-pumping chases and eventually a big boss fight where you try to outwit your enemy. Along the way, however, there are many environmental puzzles to solve that give you a false sense of security before the horror begins again. Tarsier Studios is wise enough not to let the game go to waste while offering great variety in gameplay.
Note: in the last chapter, all the puzzles are audio, meaning that people with hearing problems will probably be left unsatisfied. I don’t know if there’s a way to change this or not, but from the menu I’ve seen, it could cause problems for people who are deaf or have hearing problems. But it’s a minor problem in an otherwise solid game.
In addition to the careful design of the various levels and challenges you go through, Little Nightmares II spices up various hats, fun achievements to unlock, and some leftovers from other kids in the gnarly crevices of the levels. Finishers will be in their element here, and it is highly recommended that you unlock everything, as the game hides a secret ending that is well worth the effort.
Of course, you could watch it on YouTube, but the game does such a good job with its scares and level design that it would be a disservice not to finish this game.
Tense, beautifully made, and with fantastic sound design, Little Nightmares II is an eerie immersion into a nightmarish world you’ll never want to leave. The game is a shining example of how to do horror well, and aside from a few clunky game mechanics, it set the bar high for games in 2021.
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