Tarsier Studios has defied the odds and delivered a superior sequel.
Tarsier Studios really captured lighting in a bottle when it came to Little Nightmares. The studio that was once only really known for its work on the Little Big Planet series knocked it out of the park by blending its platform expertise with a more dark and ominous style. The tale of Six's fight for survival really seemed to resonate with gamers and the indie title ended up exceeding expectations and shifting over two million units. Now almost four years later, Tarsier has followed up with a sequel and things look even more ambitious this time around.
Little Nightmares II directly continues after the events of the first game, but this time another unlikely hero has graced the spotlight. The paper bag wearing Mono acts as the sequel's central protagonist, but luckily for fans of the original, the much-loved Six is still along for the ride in a supporting role. Here the pair find themselves in a world that has been entranced by the medium of television, and it's up to them to travel to a location known as the Signal Tower to help set its residents free. Without giving too much away, I do have to say that I found its narrative pretty powerful, as it acted as commentary on modern day society, and it was able to convey its message effectively without cinematics or words.
The underwater locale of The Maw in the original may have come under fire for its lack of variety, but the same can't be critcised about Little Nightmares II. Across your journey to the Signal Tower, you'll find yourself creeping your way through a murky swamp, a creaky old 19th Century school, and an eerie morgue - just to name a few places. Each of the game's five chapters feel distinctive both in their environment and the puzzles and challenges that they throw your way, so there's always the sense that you're walking into something new.
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What remains consistent throughout, however, is the chilling atmosphere. The worlds here are cloaked in darkness and packed with plenty of grotesque snapshots of a world that has been driven to the brink due to their dependence on Television. It does an excellent job too of making you feel vulnerable and as if the odds are truly stacked against you on your journey. There's danger lurking around every corner and the many monsters that you'll have to cautiously tiptoe past feel massively imposing and insurmountable.
Little Nightmares II got my heart pumping the most when it tasked me with sneaking around in the shadows to evade capture from these harrowing creatures. The monsters here are pure nightmare fuel and the game does an excellent job of conveying elements about their character and backstory through the environment. In the first chapter, for example, it's clear that The Hunter is somebody that we do not want to mess with. The building where we first encounter him is filled with animal skins and you have to sneak past him whilst he's busy hacking apart a carcass. It's obvious that he's a callus killer and unlikely to show you mercy.
Puzzles and platforming still remain the core pillars of gameplay, but things feel much more creative and varied this time around. You, of course, have a companion along for the ride this time and she can help boost you to greater highs and help you scale larger gaps. Many of the puzzles hinge on the idea that you're helping each other through your journey and they often task you with venturing forward solo and finding a way for the two of you to reunite. Things start simplistic with regards to puzzles, but in the latter stretch, you'll find yourself walking down endlessly looping corridors and having to use TVs as wormholes.
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Not everything within the sequel is a change for the better, however. In some sections of the game, you'll have to quickly swing a blunt weapon over your shoulder before you are pounced on by a foe, and I found this to be incredibly imprecise. Even with a fair amount of practice, I found myself missing my target and being wrestled down to the ground. I get that it might have been intentional in a sense to show how weak and powerless you as a character, but its unreliable nature resulted in being the game's most frustrating aspect.
My other main complaint with Little Nightmares II is its length. The game is only five chapters long and it can easily be breezed through in around five to six hours. I have to give the developers credit and say that quality has certainly been favoured over quantity here, but that didn't stop me from longing for more. It's pretty wild to believe that I had almost played half the game when I previewed its opening two chapters back in January. Sure, the original wasn't a long game, but I was hoping that more content would be included here due to the increase in budget and scope.
It might be short but there are a few aspects that might help to extend the longevity for some. Firstly, within each chapter there are two different hats that can be found that will replace Mono's paper bag and these include a tree stump and a policeman's hat. There are also what are known as Glitching Remains that can also be found within levels and these look to be the souls of those sucked into the TV screen. Sure, the average person might overlook these, but it's great that these hidden extras have been added for completionists.
Little Nightmares II expands upon the DNA of its predecessor in many meaningful ways, and in my eyes, it's undoubtedly a superior sequel. The game features a more diverse list of locales and its harrowing atmosphere remains consistent throughout. I also found its central narrative to be pretty powerful and its puzzles are much more creative and varied this time around. I did, however, find it to be disappointingly short and I struggled to get to grips with its combat due to its imprecise nature. Still, if you were one of the many that fell in love with its predecessor then you should absolutely give this one a chance.
8 / 10
It's locales are varied, it constantly makes you feel on the edge of your seat, there's a nice sense of pace through platforming, puzzles, and chase sequences
The game is a little on the short side, combat feels imprecise and clunky.