Little Nightmares II (Switch) Review
I’m a weird one when it comes to horror movies and games. Nothing could turn me away from horror faster than jump scares and reliance on needless gore. Having missed the first Little Nightmares, I wasn’t sure what kind of horror I’d be getting with its sequel: Little Nightmares 2. Will this nightmare turn out to be a dream or haunt my sleep?
Mono is a boy with a paper bag over his head, waking up in a large foreboding forest dripping with dread. Early on into your journey into the unknown, you meet Six, the main character from the first game. Six joins you as an AI companion, navigating this world of horror and death together.
The game is a 2.5D horror adventure game, where Mono and Six work together to survive the Pale City and reach the Signal Tower. There isn’t any dialogue or text to tell you this, but it doesn’t matter. Little Nightmares 2 is about subjecting you to creepy environments, self-contained buildings with different themes and set pieces. There’s the school filled with porcelain bullies to harass you, watched over by a hungry distorted teacher.
A hospital full of animated mannequin limbs and corpses, operated on by the bloated doctor. Each area is separated from one another, with each bringing different kinds of sequences. It could be dragging around a hammer to fight back dangerous porcelain children or trying to shine a torch on animated mannequins as they try to grab you. The game is filled with tense, memorable moments, each area staying with you well after the game is over.
In this twisted fairytale-style game, you will die a lot. Similar to games like Limbo and Inside, death can be sudden and unexpected. Plenty of times, you’ll see it coming too, inescapable all the same. Luckily the checkpoints are pretty forgiving. I discovered quickly that death is waiting around every corner. When I respawn, I’m never too far away. If only the animation of Mono standing up as this happens didn’t take a few seconds, which sucks when you’re in a tough section. It made some sequences drag on too long. Now, if it was just the issue that I was terrible at the game, then that’s really on me. But when deaths happen frequently aided by dicey combat, clumsy controls or bad use of the 2.5D space, I came away from notable moments a little soured by all the wrangling it took to get through it.
Little Nightmares II nails that tense atmosphere. Knowing that danger is always lurking, the limited music and sounds add to the tension. Whether it’s discordant strings or the atmospheric background sounds, there’s also just some unsettling or gross sounds that help to ratchet up the tension and dread.
Combat is a nightmare; fortunately, there isn’t a heavy focus on it. You’ll find weapons/items to defend yourself throughout the game, usually something heavy to swing around. It’s fine swinging an axe or hammer to knock through some rotted wood, but it’s something else to take out a fast-moving creature. The swing of these items feels very deliberate, but the collision detection isn’t reliable. For a few sequences where I had to take out some attackers, my attack would bounce off because it was a hair off. This was exacerbated by the fact that you’re always killed in one hit. No matter how generous the checkpoint system is, there’s a tedious little wait for Mono to stand up when respawning.
Outside of combat, Mono and Six explore the Pale City, making their way to the Thin Man. I mostly enjoyed the time immersed in this twisted world, the overbearing desolate city where Mono and Six feel like trespassers amongst the monsters. I’m thankful that each building is unique enough to get you caught up doing the same thing too often.
Visuals capture the style well. It has a haunting dreariness, where every suspiciously-empty area hides death traps. The darker lighting is meant to add to the atmosphere, but it also makes it harder to see what you’re able to interact with. This is likely an issue due to the Switch’s more limited hardware. While it would risk killing the atmosphere, I wouldn’t have complained if there was an option to have outlines around interactive items. Tarsier Studios managed to create some creepy and unsettling characters in this game. The Teacher is a real stand out when she starts to reveal her true form. Despite not being gross or anything, the mannequin sequence still managed to be unpleasant in the way it’s meant to.
Little Nightmares 2 is a horror game that stays with you sometime after the credits roll. If you want a game to keep you feeling tense and uncomfortable for a few hours, Mono and Six will be able to help. Tarsier Studios doesn’t throw buckets of gore at you or go for cheap scares; they know how to creep. The sequences requiring precision platforming and combat let the game down in some areas. If you’re looking for a tense roller-coaster ride of dread and the grotesque, this is the nightmare for you.
+ A tense unsettling horror game without relying on gore
+ Plenty of sequences to stick with you well after the credits
- Combat doesn't always work
- Unreliable 2.5D platforming and chase sequences