WITH an art style vaguely reminiscent of a Tim Burton film, Little Nightmares II (developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco for all PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch) is shaping up to be a stylish and unsettling horror-puzzler.
The game is set for release on February 11 and is described as a suspense-adventure game, set in a world which has been corrupted by something known as The Signal Tower.
I’ve had a chance to play a preview of the game and it’s been an interesting experience, in that it’s unlike the sort of games I usually play but has proven surprisingly atmospheric too.
The plot, according to the official website (the game itself doesn’t have any sort of exposition or set-up that I could see) is that “you play as Mono, a young boy trapped in a world that has been distorted by the humming transmission of a distant tower. With Six, the girl in a yellow raincoat, as his guide, Mono sets out to discover the dark secrets of The Signal Tower and save Six from her terrible fate.”
The game is dark and creepy but doesn’t cross over into outright terrifying in the way that, say, Alien: Isolation or the Resident Evil games do – which isn’t a criticism, because the low key sense of unreality and unsafety works a lot more effectively than jump scares, especially here.
I missed the previous game – I’m not a fan of horror or platformers – but have been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve played of Little Nightmares II.
The atmosphere the game sets up is excellent, and while it’s a linear path through the levels (with limited backtracking), the puzzles that came up during the preview ranged from “obvious” to “frustrating until they finally click”, with a few timed events in there. Mono is joined by Six, the hero of the previous game, and she helps him solve puzzles, provide a boost, and all the other things AI companions assist with in modern games.
There were two chapters available in the preview – the Woods and The School – and both were very well presented, with excellent light and shadow interplay to really create a spooky, nightmarish atmosphere.
In addition to the puzzles, there are enemies that need to be defeated or outwitted – in the preview I encountered The Hunter and The Teacher, both of whom were monstrous interpretations of their respective archetypes.
One thing that didn’t sit well with me was how the antagonists in the preview were so determined to hurt and even kill children. The Hunter, whom you encounter at in Chapter 1, spends a lot of time trying to hunt down and shoot Mono and Six, despite having numerous opportunities to establish they are in fact kids who pose no challenge or threat, and The Teacher from Chapter 2 is clearly trying to catch and eat the children too.
It’s messed up in a way that adds to the horror vibes and further adds to the darkness of the world, but it just seemed a bit much to me.
While it’s not something I’d let my kids play (there is some disturbing imagery in there), what I saw in the preview was an artistically impressive game complemented by excellent audio work which really brings out the haunting atmosphere of the game.
Horror fans and those looking for something dark, macabre or just unnerving will want to keep an eye out for this one, but if you’re still suffering the general malaise that’s been going on since early 2020, you might want to wait for something cheerier.