Perhaps Little Nightmares II is so successful because its strangeness is equalled by its unambiguity. Playing Mono, a little boy who wears a paper bag as a mask, you must work with Six, the protagonist from the first chapter of Little Nightmares, to navigate a terrifying world of puzzles and adversaries.
This game is as simple as that. The controls are basic, the puzzles are rarely challenging and the plot is, arguably, inconsequential. But it’s this fearless simplicity that allows the eerie, ethereal beauty of the game’s visuals, music and sound effects to shine. While there is plenty of suspense, heightened by the fact that you control a tiny, childlike character that is often unarmed and woefully vulnerable, Tarsier Studios also uses moments of chilling serenity that enable the player to soak up its haunting habitats.
The developers are proudly versed in this genre, too. From the use of TV sets transmitting nefarious forces (like in Poltergeist and Ringu), to enemies like the Thin Man (who could be easily mistaken for Slender Man) and the Patients (reminiscent of the sentient mannequins from Silent Hill 2), Little Nightmares II delights in repurposing established cues from horror games, folklore and cinema. The environments, which include ghostly woodlands, schools and hospitals and a maze of staircases and corridors somewhere between Hellbound: Hellraiser II and MC Escher’s Relativity, are also textbook backdrops reinvented to maximum effect.
Little Nightmares II, like all great horror films, is short and engrossing. And like Jacob’s Ladder, Ghost Stories and the recent (and brilliant) I’m Thinking of Ending Things, it’s a joy watching reality collapse and deteriorate around you. Even when the puzzles sometimes feel monotonous or repetitive, you’ll struggle to pull yourself out of this dreamscape. Don’t be surprised if you complete it in two or three tense sittings.
BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe
PC DIGITAL, PS4, XBOX ONE, NINTENDO SWITCH
11 Feb 2021