Back in 2017 Little Nightmares from Tarsier Studios took many gamers by surprise, including me. The small girl with the yellow coat, Six became an instant favorite videogame character of mine. Little Nightmares 2 was announced at Gamescom Opening Night Live in 2019 and it was hard for me to not jump out of the crappy plastic audience seat. With reason too, as this review proves today Little Nightmares 2 is an incredible game. The future around the franchise is a bit unclear now as publisher Bandai Namco has the IP rights but critically-acclaimed Tarsier Studios has been acquired by Embracer Group. But that’s food for thought later. I will be processing the insane ending for a while and replaying the game with pleasure for a second and third time.
We played Little Nightmares 2 for 8 hours on Xbox Series X, and likely three times more in my nightmares.
What we liked!
- A brilliantly told story without words, built in a universe that was seemingly made in a mixed style between M. Night Shyamalan and Tim Burton worlds | Rest assured I won’t be spoiling anything here. There is a lot to spoil about the universe of Little Nightmares though, especially the shocking and mind-blowing ending. It might not be the longest game but it has a lot of story elements that can be discussed for hours and hours. New in the sequel is a new playable character, Mono. Six had her yellow coat and what makes Mono special is his paper bag on his head. You can find other hats to wear that are hidden in the world, which I found an original touch. This charming duo will explore a fascinating world, that isn’t limited anymore to the Maw. In case you didn’t play the first Little Nightmares, The Maw was what The Rapture was for Bioshock. A mysterious and grim place that told a story on its own. This special atmosphere isn’t lost in Little Nightmares 2, on the contrary. It is incredible what Tarsier created, levels that not only look fantastic but tell a story without using any words at all. The interesting thing here is that everyone will have different opinions about what the hell is going on. I promise you, the six to seven hours of playtime is one full of unexpected turns and conclusions that would fit The Servant from Shyamalan. You simply don’t know what is coming next and how Six and Mono will deal with upcoming horrors.
- Animations on par with Playdead’s INSIDE | There’s just something about the way Mono vulnerably moves around the place and how the world acts around Mono and my yellow coated friend Six that’s very well done. The in total four big bad guys have distinct ways of moving around too, often using the environments in unique ways. Must have been a tremendous amount of work to finish the animations for Little Nightmares 2 but it is done with a lot of polish and love for the franchise.
- Memorable moments that will live on in your nightmares | Tidus laughing scene in Final Fantasy, the first moment you have to make a choice in Bioshock or the plot reveal in Spec Ops. Moments that gamers will remember even years later after playing the game. Little Nightmares had a few, or don’t you remember that eating scene? Well, Little Nightmares 2 has more of them. Porcelain kids that shatter into pieces, creepy mannequins that move around in the dark and play with shadows, and obviously the four main baddies.
- Sinister Music and nightmarish creepy sound | There is this constant suffocating ambient noise that almost screams that there is always danger just lurking around the corner. And when big gameplay moments happen the music follows suit, nasty when it needs to be or dead-silent to make the atmosphere even eerier. It is a quite tense experience and definitely not for those with heart problems. You’ll be facing porcelain-children in a tough section in Little Nightmares, my least favorite moment but here the sound really reaches high moments. The screaming and yelling in the background while breaking the head of an enemy that spotted you are an audio-highlight and shows that Tarsier isn’t only talented in storytelling and visuals but also with audio.
- A highly detailed haunting world that is built for clue-seeking gamers|With clue-seeking I don’t mean the many collectibles in Little Nightmares 2, hats for Mono, ghost children, or the special Achievement tasks. What is really unique here is that the environments have a lot to say. It’s like a parent reading a bedtime story for his kid. In the game, the voice of the parents is basically the visuals. They give enough information so the player’s imagination can connect the dots about what the hell is ongoing. There is always a narrative happening while exploring the disturbing world and that for me is the strongest aspect of the franchise. It’s not the well designed ‘boss moments’ or the atmosphere. The true star here is the ability of Tarsier Studios to tell a story just by using impressive looking visuals that blend realism with nightmarish weirdness, giving players that unsettling feeling that many horror movies try to give viewers but most of the times simply fail. One final thing I have to mention about the visuals is the fantastic use of shadows, this really comes together when you have to use a flashlight to find your way out. This particular chapter full of prosthetic body parts and extremely creepy enemies who scared the shit out of me is a technical highlight and very impressive work from Tarsier Studios.
- Perfectly paced gameplay that keeps players on edge | In a relatively short time you’ll be running away from a shotgun wearing weirdo, timing your runs between cover. Solving logical puzzles how to avoid deadly traps. Processing story clues about what is going on with Mono. and being frightened by the hair-raising atmosphere. That first half-hour is pretty much how it is going to be for the rest of the game. Gameplay-wise it is not much different from the first Little Nightmares, just as in the game Limbo you’ll have a few moments you’ll unexpectedly be killed by traps or by a failed chase-scene. Luckily, these moments of frustration are balanced out by instant checkpoint loading, I never had to play parts over because unlike the first Little Nightmares you have a much better checkpoint-system in place. To be honest, I loved to see the animations of a checkpoint. Seeing Mono and Six rest or lean against objects pretending that they didn’t die an awful dead a few seconds ago is actually pretty charming. For me, the many antagonists moments, especially the split-second thinking chases truly bring out the best in the franchise. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Langnek in the Fairy Forest of the Dutch theme park Efteling? Well, this guy always gave me the creeps, and one of the antagonists,
The Teacher could have been his nightmarish sister. Tarsier did some incredible work around these bad guys, transforming basic gameplay sections into truly unique and memorable gameplay parts.
- This will be missed by many players but the character development from Six | Struck me when I was half the game, Six was nowhere to be seen and I thought she glitched out or something. In fact, she was simply becoming more and more confident and she went from following Mono to gradually taking decisions and leading the way. The transition from seeing a scared and unsure Six to someone who took the leading role and opening doors for example. I replayed sections to confirm this and I was so impressed by this little detail. In general, it was a risky decision from Tarsier to make the previously playable character a supporting character but this allows for some neat gameplay and story elements. There are multiple easter eggs about the first Little nightmares too, so don’t be too disappointed that Six isn’t playable. It is honestly for the better and in no way negative like it was in, for example, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty with Raiden. The co-operative play between Mono and Six is charming, helping each other over high ledges, holding hands while walking, and being able to design more complex puzzle solutions really helps to make Little Nightmares 2 a better game.
- Learned from previous feedback about the first Little Nightmares | One of my biggest complaints about the first Little Nightmares was the loading time. If I remember correctly these took over a minute, which is simply way too long. You won’t have to wait that long when Mono dies as checkpoint loading is instant and the game never seems to load at all. What a relieving difference! Now I do have to say that this is the situation on Xbox Series X, so with Series X’s SSD that might be only normal. So don’t send me angry messages when you have loading times on Xbox One, we didn’t test it on older hardware. Another frequent issue on the first game was the frame rate issues, this is again completely gone and Little Nightmares 2 played extremely well. I didn’t have a single performance issue or even a bug! Talk about good polish!
- Depth perception | Little Nightmares mix between 2D and 3D background depth can cause a few issues with movement. This with chase-sequences or puzzles that work with physics and especially the combat that I will mention later in the what we disliked. Sometimes invisible objects cause Mono to be stuck for a few seconds, which means a painful end of the cute hat wearer against the antagonists. While it has been a few years, I don’t remember these kinds of small annoyances while playing as Six in the first Little Nightmares. Maybe because the environments are filled with more clutter now, which to be clear is a positive thing for realism.
What we disliked
- Frustrating parts, mainly the lack of precision in combat | Occasionally the charming Mono takes control of an ax or anything else he can hit enemies with. Fast-moving breakable children or things straight out of the Addams family. I won’t deny that these short combat sequences bring new life into the franchise. It also brings a new form of frustration as combat lacks precision. I’ll be honest here, Little Nightmares 2 was going straight to 100% but I found the combat parts and some flashlights sections difficult and too frustrating. I understand that Tarsier wanted to make the player feel that Mono and Six are weak against the many dangers in the world but a particular mannequin section in chapter 4 was rage-inducing. It is worth it to keep pushing on as everything else is what I consider a masterpiece.
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