Platformers aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but I know a good one when I see one. Astro’s Playroom really cranks up what I expect to find in a platformer and art installments like Ori and the Blind Forest really make you pause and go “is that how competitive the market is these days?”
Sure enough, I haven’t felt this tense since Resident Evil VII and while it really reminds me of Inside to a fault, there’s something about this game that draws you in and asks you to trust it, before it puts you in a highly stressful situation leaving you only with your wits and cunning to get through it.
Little Nightmares II is a sequel to the puzzle platformer of the same name that tells a story of Mono, a paperbag wearing strange child who comes across Six, the protagonist of the original Little Nightmares who he rescues from The Hunter, the creepy shotgun toting antagonist that you have to outsmart in the demo.
If you’ve played the first game, you’ll know what to expect from the demo. Newcomers will find this easy enough to pick up and play within a matter of seconds, but navigating through the creepy environments is another story.
The Little Nightmares II demo outlines the first few areas of the game: as you exit from the television portal, into the yard of danger, and finally into The Hunter’s house where you’ll rescue Six. From the get go, the creepy cute world gets progressively more harrowing and dark, outlining the many victims of said antagonist. Coming into the house, you’ll find petrified remains of either victims or past denizens, there is quite a number of nightmare fuel that you definitely cannot unsee.
The graphics of the game are fantastic and very ambient, so much so that you’ll feel the creepiness just through the visuals alone. Paired with audio that is simple but effective, the game really cranks up the scare factor to 10.
Controls are simple enough, and you’ll only be using 4 buttons (for the demo). Mono will jump, crawl, sprint, hide, and manipulate items to get to the next area. While previews claim that there is a “combat element”, it is mostly minimal actions that let you manipulate tools that can be interpreted as combat. There’s a part where you wield an axe to break into Six’s cell or where you manipulate sticks to set off bear traps that block your way. Another aspect I liked is using acorns and shoes (don’t ask) to find out what’s underneath the leaves in your path.
Puzzle elements scattered throughout the level are fairly simple, but could get a bit more complex in the full game. Every misstep or death just sends you back to the last checkpoint where you could experiment on Mono’s next move. Just like Inside and Limbo, it is very much a “figure out how to get past the current area and get to the next area” type of game.
The story just like the previous games are a masterclass in visual storytelling, where the environment and the actions of your protagonists convey the drama that unfolds.
There are some escort areas that may trigger those who hate this type of mechanic, but both Mono and Six are just as helpless, so it’s really the blind leading the blind. This aspect also really ramps up the foreboding dread and the creep factor that takes up the following challenges. It’s not for the faint of heart.
The demo is short and sweet, but the time you spend with it is all you’ll really need to know whether the game is for you or not. As you can already figure, this is definitely in our list of games to check out when it releases next month.
Little Nightmares II is scheduled to launch on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One X|S, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, and PC on February 11, 2021.