Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Release Date: 02/10/2021
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Little Nightmares was a creepy platformer with a minimal story and narrative. The game was mostly all about atmosphere and puzzle-solving. These games cropped up after Limbo was a smash-hit and games like Inside also followed. The only downside to these games is that they tend to not shape any kind of narrative or world-building. There’s a lot of interesting things to look at, and clearly, the setting you are in is a curious thing to want to know about. Little Nightmares II puts you in the shoes of a paper bag-wearing kid who is running from something, but you never know what. Throughout the entire game, you go from location to location not knowing what your end goal is, and even after finishing the game, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of everything.
The game starts out giving you simple controls such as jumping and picking up objects using the physics engine. You won’t be doing this very often except to use weapons occasionally and throw an object at a button to open a door. The atmosphere sets in right away with your character running through a forest and trying to avoid bear traps and traverse fallen bridges. Once you get to a certain area you meet your first main monster and then you are introduced to combat. I really don’t want to call it that as all you do is pick up an ax and swing it, but it’s completely based on physics. Usually, you will use an ax to break down walls, but you will use it to fight enemies at the school level and it’s all about timing. The ax is very heavy and your character can’t move it very fast, but it works.
The first area is rather short but pretty cinematic, and things will slow down greatly as the game goes on. After a few areas, you will notice the game adds a lot of puzzle-solving, most of which don’t require much thinking, there are a few physics-based puzzles, and halfway through you meet a companion that requires some puzzle solving with two people, but the ease of the puzzles is to keep the pace going. You don’t want to spend too long in any one area. I felt the chase from enemies and puzzle-solving was well balanced. Several screens will go by of just platforming, maybe just empty screens of scene-setting, but I do want to talk about these monsters. The game is very creepy and the main monsters basically chase you throughout the entire area you are in. The school has a teacher that can stretch her neck out and chase you through vents and under tables. The hospital has a doctor that can walk on ceilings. They show up in some scenes, but not every area has you killing this main villain, the most important part for you is escape.
There is some frustration with the game and that’s a lot of trial and error. Some scenes wanted to get across the screen via a certain path, but I got caught by the villain numerous times before figuring out how to do it. There were also control issues climbing things in which my character got stuck or I didn’t understand that jumping across a ravine to hang on to my character’s hand was going to be an issue. In several areas, I had to restart the screen over and over until I walked across that beam just right, or didn’t get caught. Thankfully you just restart that screen and it helps keep the pace going. I just wish there was more story to be told or something else to hold on to rather than the next creepy monster or setting.
The game looks great visually with a lot of nice art, but technically it’s not super impressive. Textures look muddy up close and some objects aren’t the highest poly count. The animations are great, however, and the controls are good, there’s just that annoyance with the game’s physics. It’s also pretty short as it can be finished in about 5 hours, and I honestly wanted more. The creature designs are so fantastically creepy and unique, and the game skims the line between gory and just plain dark and creepy. It’s never a gorefest, but it feels like it could be. There are animal guts, but not human, there are body parts everywhere, but they’re mannequins. It’s a fun line to walk down and it’s done just right here.