In a gaming world where the horror genre has become more predictable than our repetitive quarantine days, “Little Nightmares II” is a very eerie and uncomfortable breath of fresh air.
Developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, this is a sequel to the successful indie gem from 2017, and it literally improves on its predecessor in every imaginable way.
Just like the first “Little Nightmares,” this is a 2.5-dimensional gaming experience that includes a mixture of platforming, puzzle-solving and stealth. The player encounters numerous twisted adults (and occasionally some seriously demented children) who try to kill them in the most gruesome ways imaginable.
The story follows a little boy named Mono, a new protagonist, who is joined by the first game’s protagonist, little girl Six, as they traverse Pale City and try to survive all the nightmares that stand in their way.
I would challenge anyone to honestly declare that they do not fall in love with Mono and Six as they get to meet them. Their mute relationship is full of adorable moments, which are desperately needed in a narrative that is otherwise packed with living little nightmares. Whenever the two held hands or aided each other in their sinister adventures, I was filled with a sense of hope that everything might turn out positively for them in the end.
Even with the lack of dialogue, most of the game’s storytelling is done in a very capable way, showcasing this thread of experience that most children have to live through in their young lives. Many other interpretations are plausible, which just further proves the quality of writing.
For the sake of not spoiling the absolutely stunning designs of the monsters that make the player’s life a living hell, I will only say that their appearance just gets more frightening as new creatures are introduced. Their movements are specific to their locations in the game, and they all have specific and disgustingly varied ways of hunting Mono and Six.
The graphics consistently continue to amaze, and all the locations are so grand in scope that it makes the tiny main characters appear even smaller.
The atmosphere, just like its predecessor, is dripping with ominous unease, which is hugely aided by an amazing score composed by Tobias Lilja.
Still, the highlight of “Little Nightmares II” are the puzzles. Every single instance where a player has to solve a puzzle in order to progress further was obviously made with a great amount of care and thought. Both gaming veterans and newcomers alike will appreciate its ingenuity. Just like its atmosphere, the puzzles are slowly built up from the simplest challenge to complex brain crackers that make players feel proud once they have found the solutions.
The only negatives are some of the chase sequences, which are so unforgiving that it seems like the player is supposed to die before actually figuring out what to do in order to successfully escape. The platforming is quite clunky in some instances, which leads to many unnecessary deaths and lessens the impact of the carefully built-up horror atmosphere, as the player is forced to repeat the same section numerous times.
Thankfully, this is only a small negative in an otherwise solid four-hour experience. Tarsier Studios created a piece of interactive art, and this is just one more example of why video games have become a medium through which all types of expression are possible and welcome.