Also On: PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Little Nightmares was a surprise hit that managed to stand out in a year full of incredible releases. 2017 brought us Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Nier: Automata, Nioh, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and so many more. The fact that Little Nightmares was able to stand out as one of my favorite games in a year that was packed with so many good games really says something about Tarsier Studios first full outing. Tarsier Studios got started making DLC for Little Big Planet in partnership with Media Molecule, and some of that influence can be found in the Little Nightmares universe.
Little Nightmares II succeeds in all the same ways the first one did, although the one big attempt to change things up was ultimately the only miss for me. The change I am referring to is the new combat mechanic. These combat encounters are mercifully few and far between, but still left me frustrated every time. These are sections that require you to grab ball-peen hammers or broken pieces of pipe to smash the porcelain heads of evil dolls, or try and smash the disembodied hands of various mannequins. These weapons swing incredibly slow, with each swing leaving you vulnerable for a second if you miss, and everything that attacks you will kill you in one hit. Add to that the difficulty of timing and aiming these swings in 2.5d, and it ends up being incredibly frustrating. Luckily these are very rare encounters and were not enough to soil my overall impression and experience with the game.
Little Nightmares succeeded in simplicity, the easiest solution to a puzzle was usually the right one, and mastery of stealth and movement came quickly. Little Nightmares II succeeds here too, maintaining the same general feel as the original. The only downside to feeling so much like the first game is that all of the little hiccups are still there as well. The occasional struggle to get your character to start running when you need them to or missing a jump because depth perception in 2.5d is tough, or getting caught on an object in the environment that doesn?t look like it should catch you, all of these still manage to pop up and surprise you at the worst possible time.
When it works though, Little Nightmares II really works. The environment is so gorgeous and meticulously designed, with each new level having the same amount of care and detail poured into it as the one before. The color palette for Little Nightmares II is a bit more muted, but it works in terms of the story.
Little Nightmares II puts you in control of Mono, another child protagonist stuck in a horrifying nightmare world. Shortly after starting the game, you come across a familiar face, Six from the original game. Six is an AI-controlled companion throughout most of the game, and she helps you with traversal and environmental puzzles, as well as playing a key role in the story which I will not spoil here. Suffice it to say that Little Nightmares II ties in well with the first game, and is an absolute must-play for anyone invested in this story and world.
Overall, Six is a decent AI companion. It is sometimes immersion-breaking to be hiding crouched under a bed, with a monster staring straight down at you while Six runs around in front of their eyes trying to rediscover her pathing, totally undetected. And although it is funny to watch, I prefer it to the alternative where the monsters actually DO see her and you get caught based on the failings of an uncontrollable partner. Six also occasionally tries to catch up to you in hiding and accidentally pushes you out into the line of sight of whatever currently wants to eat you, but these events were very rare. Having another person traverse the horrifying world with you ends up being a big positive, and deepens the emotional impact of the eventual story payoff.
Little Nightmares II is more diverse in its level design, free from the constraints of The Maw. The scope here feels much larger, but I think it is balanced very well and never seems to lose sight of the importance of the smaller moments. Ultimately, Little Nightmares thrives in the personal impact it has. I feel that Tarsier Studios has done a great job of carrying the legacy of Little Nightmares forward.
Little Nightmares II is relatively short, coming in right around four hours of total gametime before I rolled credits. The story demands an immediate restart however, and I was more than happy to oblige. I finished the game a second time and cleaned up all of the miscellaneous achievements I missed on my first run and achieved 100% completion in less than 10 hours. Even with the relatively short runtime, I found the experience to be complete and fulfilling. Anything longer might have started to push it, and I am happy they chose to quit while they were ahead. That is not to say I wouldn?t welcome some DLC, and definitely wouldn?t rule out the possibility of a Little Nightmares 3 to close out the story.
Little Nightmares II is a wonderful follow-up to the original, and manages to feel similar yet unique. The world-building is amazing, the puzzles are simple but fun, the story is intriguing, everything adds up to a really great experience. Tarsier Studios has outdone themselves with Little Nightmares II, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Note: Bandai Namco provided us with a Little Nightmares II PC code for review purposes.