I’ve played the preview section of Little Nightmares II four-and-a-half times now. This is a thirty to a forty-five-minute section of what will, of course, be a much larger game. Forty-four minutes, from the first full recording (In my first attempt, the preview crashed) I did of the game, which you’ll see at the end of this preview. Still, each time I played this section of Little Nightmares II, it never failed to unnerve or startle me. This is always a great sign when so many horror games seem to forget to include the actual horror.
This hands-on of Little Nightmares II puts you in the role of Mono, accompanied by Six from the original title. We have already seen gameplay set in some woods, but this new piece of hands-on content sees us wandering the halls of a hospital that makes the usual hospitals in horror games look like a children’s playhouse. Bodies strewn, beheaded and dismembered, prosthetic arms and legs – even heads – the place is a surreal look at what could have come out of Mengele’s wildest fantasies.
Much like the first game, this is a side-scrolling – of sorts – 2.5D style title. You’ll be traversing several areas, solving puzzles and looking at some of the best uses of light and colour in a video game. You’ll find yourself solving puzzles, getting chased by dismembered hands and either some mannequins, newly returned corpses with prosthetics and who knows what else. What I do know is that the atmosphere is overbearing and perfect for the title, continuing from the first game. It’s impossible not to feel like something very small in a large world just waiting for the right time to finish you off.
Now, you can still fight back to a degree in Little Nightmares II and even that adds to the diminutive feeling of Mono. Find a lead pipe or hammer, you can pick it up, but every swing is laboured. The strain is noticeable thanks to some outstanding animations, the ending thud as you miss the enemy making you worry you won’t have enough time to swing again before getting finished off. Even the torch, which is better than that in the original – the spread of the light, how you can use it and the false sense of safety it brings – has that aspect where it feels like you’re just not quite up to the task. Maybe it’s the controls, maybe it’s just that Mono is a bit too small to be holding a full torch (flashlight). I just know that I was feeling my heart pounding as I’m flailing the light around to get the enemies to stand still and leave me alone.
Not only is the use of light and the general pacing of this game already masterful, and this is only a preview, the sound is just top-notch. It’s constantly unnerving. Whether I’m playing while talking or just playing alone, no microphone, I’m finding myself catching my breath. Creaking and cracking sounds, the ominous music, sometimes a deathly silence. Hell, even when the music speeds up, representing a fight or a chase sequence, it’s there just driving you on.
Tarsier really has done a great job of layering on the atmosphere through the use of light, audio and even the use of the constant ticking of your own brain. Even the parts of the game you’re not directly interacting with, the parts that aren’t trying to scare the ever-loving hell out of you, offer something to really think about. Why are these people (?) sat where they are? Is this, despite the name of the level, actually a hospital or something much more sinister? Is there even a distinction in that and why, oh why, are there so many prosthetic limbs around?
What I really appreciate is the inclusion of Six as a second character. It adds something a little different from the first game. Sometimes it’s something as simple as getting a leg up for a higher entranceway. Other times, she’ll be carrying something for you or trying to clear your way through while you’re holding off some enemies. Could you have fought off the enemies on your own, then moved forward? Of course, but it just adds that bit of extra tension and it’s lovely.
I suppose the real question is how this all fits in with the story of Little Nightmares, and Little Nightmares II. How does it link in with the forest that we’ve already seen? These are already questions I really want to know and I’m looking forward to finding out when the game is released. This will be on February the 11th, 2021, when Little Nightmares II launches on the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It will also be coming for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series consoles, with free upgrades for those who own the current-gen versions.
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