Little Nightmares II Review
Does it live up to its predecessor?
When Little Nightmares was released back in 2017 it was received well by both gamers and critics so it goes without saying that the sequel, Little Nightmares II, has some pretty big shoes to fill. It needs to both capture the essence of the first game while doing something new. To the uninitiated, Little Nightmares II, like its predecessor, is a suspense filled horror-adventure, puzzle-platform game developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco.
In a world that is being controlled by malicious signals reaching residents via tv screen, Little Nightmares II puts us in the shoes of a young boy called Mono as he journeys to uncover the secrets of the signal tower that appears to be the source of all the evil and distortion in the world. The residents have been twisted by these tv signals and turned into violent, mindless drones who can’t imagine life without them. As he navigates his way through this strange world, Mono comes up against a bloodthirsty hunter, a horrifying teacher and more who won’t hesitate to crush him if they get half a chance. Luckily for him, he doesn’t have to go it alone though. Not long after waking up, he meets a young girl who fans of the series will recognise as Six, the yellow-raincoat-clad protagonist of the first game who’s there to give him a hand.
I could go into much more detail about the plot, but given the narrative flow of the game, I don’t want to spoil what is best experienced first-hand.
In terms of visuals, Little Nightmares II unsurprisingly resembles the first game. It’s dark and gloomy and somewhat simplistic – almost reminiscent of an old stop-motion movie. I don’t mean that as a criticism in any way. I think it looks great. Your surroundings are genuinely creepy, genuinely off-putting and that’s before you come face-to-face with the residents of this nightmarish world. The teacher with her wooden ruler and long, extendable neck is honestly a thing of nightmares. Your sense of unease is only added to by the sheer size of the world. Mono and Six, despite possessing mounds of courage, are only small. Everything in their environment towers above them and this is something the developers really utilise to the fullest extent making you feel smaller than you’ve ever felt in your life.
Music and sound in general are used effectively throughout. When music plays, it’s creepy and almost foreboding but for the most part, it’s quiet enough that you can hear even the lightest of footsteps which really adds to the tension. My favourite use of sound in Little Nightmares II, however, is the way that you can hear Mono’s heartbeat whenever you’re sneaking past the more dangerous enemies. It goes a long way towards creating a really uneasy atmosphere and there were times I was on the edge of my seat praying that they wouldn’t see me.
For the most part gameplay takes place through interaction with the environment. Among other things, Mono can push objects, jump and climb his way towards the signal tower. It’s not a game about confrontation, but rather survival. There are times Mono will have to pick up a hammer or an axe to break down a door (got some real The Shining vibes there) and even occasionally take down size-proportionate enemies but most of your time will be spent sneaking around to avoid the much larger, more deadly characters.
Unlike the first game, Little Nightmares II features two protagonists – Mono, a brand new character and Six, the protagonist of the first game. While Mono takes centre stage this time around and is the only playable character, Six proves her worth time and time again. It adds an extra layer of emotional depth as we get to see the interactions between the two. Nobody speaks in the game outside the occasional call of ‘hey’ or ‘oi’ from either Mono or Six to get the other’s attention, but you can see how much they rely on each other. It’s really heart-warming to see these two kids face off against the world.
It also adds some new gameplay elements that just aren’t possible with only one character. If there’s something too heavy for Mono to move by himself, Six will help him. If there’s a gap too wide for Mono to jump, the pair will find a way to get Six across so she can extend her hand from the other side to catch him as he jumps. The two of them are capable of working independently – and there are times they have to do just that – but they excel even more as a team. It’s only by working together that they can uncover the tower’s secrets. It’s a stark contrast from the first game where Six was fending for herself.
Little Nightmares II is, mostly, a smooth game, but I did find climbing to be a little clunky. There were times I was climbing just to come to an abrupt stop as if there were an invisible wall blocking my path. I’d then have to climb back down a little and try again. While a little irritating, it was only really a problem when I was mid-chase since the hunter wasn’t about to stand around idly while I struggled to climb. Other than that, I didn’t really encounter any real problems with gameplay.
The game is longer than its predecessor and is split into five decently sized chapters with collectables scattered throughout. These take the form of glitches – essentially shadow children – and hats which can be worn by Mono. Collecting them might not do anything in-game apart from making Mono look dapper, but there are achievements on offer depending on your platform and it’s something for the completionists amongst us. Once you’ve completed a chapter, you can replay it through the main menu where you’ll also be able to see how many collectibles you have left to find in that particular chapter.
You’ll also come across TVs throughout your playthrough and play a key part in Little Nightmares II. When Mono first wakes up, he’s next to an old-style TV. Corruption spreads to the residents through TVs. Both of these things foreshadow their importance, especially later on in the game though I’ll leave you to discover the extent by yourself rather than spoiling it.
Little Nightmares II isn’t a particularly scary game in the traditional sense. There are a few jump scares but they’re not tossed in carelessly at every corner. There’s not really any explicit horror and gore but it doesn’t need it. Little Nightmares II excels at creating a truly eerie atmosphere that’ll stay with you even after you’ve put your controller down. There were moments in which I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on but I think that’s part of its charm. It’s weird and wonderful and that’s what makes it great.
Little Nightmares II
- Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Developed By: Tarsier Studios
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- US Release Date: 02/11/2021
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "Little Nightmares II excels at creating a truly eerie atmosphere that’ll stay with you even after you’ve put your controller down."