I have to admit, I was extremely late to the party to the quite simply put, incredible Little Nightmares so much that when a good friend assumed, I had played it, I was rightly told off for having never even tried it. A few days later and a mysterious packaged dropped through my front door and low and behind the GOTY version of the game for Xbox One lands on my doormat. To say I was instantly taken back by Little Nightmares and its dark ugly yet still very beautiful world would be an understatement, and something I still have yet to make it up to my friend for sending me the game. Finishing it and the DLC left me hungry for more and with the sequel receiving a couple of delays that pushed it from a 2020 to a 2021 release, I was very much chomping at the bit to return to this world and my word was the wait worth it!
For this review I am going to tread very carefully when it comes to story spoilers as the true magic of both Little Nightmares games is really in discovering the narrative as you play through each chapter, for even knowing anything of what is really to come could be a spoiler for the experience that I genuinely hope you have yourself playing Little Nightmares 2. But there is so much about this game that manages to actually accomplish what so few sequels actually do, build on what made the first game so loved, refreshes it by adding new elements and continuing to showcase a world designed to make and keep the player feeling very uncomfortable just being in it each time you play it.
The very first new element is that this time players control Mono, a boy slightly bigger than Six was in the first game, wearing a very cool trench coat and rather fetching paper bag over his head, with the world as it is right now who are we to judge fashion! Mono finds first finds himself in a horrid looking wood, unsure of how he got there but instantly aware that danger is all around him. Mono is very different to Six, so this is not just a reskinning of the same character model, Mono is slightly bigger as I said which makes him stronger and it also gives him a very different playing style to what Six had in the original game. Six would often have to use stealth with the focus of avoiding confrontation as much as possible whereas Mono is capable of holding his own in some situations and definitely feels more action capable which is used to great effect throughout Little Nightmares 2.
What can be said is that the opening chapter absolutely tells you everything you need to know about the world of Little Nightmares with every aspect growing in scale through progression. The Woods are perhaps the creepiest woods you are going to find in any video game and that includes Limbo and its giant spiders! From the very first step Mono takes in the world and you have control of him, you as the player will immediately feel on edge, for this is not a very nice place to be and it is an environment that completely wants you to feel that unease. Moving through the woods you soon come across bear traps and snares which can catch you off guard if you fail to notice your surroundings. Platforming such as running, crouching, climbing and jumping still make up the core elements of traversing this world.
It would be very remiss of me not to take this moment to just talk about the quite frankly deliciously dark and macabre visuals that both games have but have really been taken to a new level in this sequel. The colour pallet and lighting effects help bring a sinister feel to every location and environment in this game. The way in which the foreground can have so much detail whilst the background tells its own story thanks to how well the lighting and colours just snatch your eyes as you move throughout that you will be forgiven for just stopping to appreciate and to take it all in, which that can happen quite often as long as you have Mono in a safe space of course. This really is just a stunningly beautiful game especially in the animation which has that fantastic non cartoony but stop animation style which makes it stand out even more. There are so many lovely little tiny details in the animation as well from the way Mono runs and climbs to the rag doll animation when he drops a little too far and that thud instantly makes you feel a little guilty for not being more careful with him. Should you die or fail in a puzzle, which can also happen a lot, when the game returns Mono will be sitting arms round his knees looking like he is both sulking for failing but also very sad whatever happened to him because you as the player failed to look after him and that is a guilt through the connection you have with Mono that will have you, if you are like me, actually saying “sorry kid” out loud.
Visuals are not the only brilliant aspect to this game because the sound and musical score complete this cocktail of horrid delights. I would absolutely recommend playing Little Nightmares 2 with a headset, especially if like me, you are able to enjoy this PlayStation 4 version on your PS5 with the 3D Audio, sadly there is currently no new gen upgrade for either PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S on release but trailers have indicated that a free upgrade will be given to players later this year. The sound is even more eerie then the visuals with every sound making you feel like there is danger around every corner and that there is something or someone always watching you. The sound of a creaking door or the echo of a footfall when you are not moving yourself all builds the tension and atmosphere which even to me, someone who usually ignores horror games because they have no effect on me, both Little Nightmares games have been successful in making me feel very uneasy which the gameplay then uses so effortlessly to give more impact to the action sequences in the game.
The most surprising element to Little Nightmares 2 has to be the change to an almost co-op based playing mechanic. No longer is this the solitary tale of one hero but instead Mono right from the opening chapter has a friend to help him on the way, and that friend (not a spoiler as in the trailers and game marketing so keeping to my no spoiler rule) is none other than Six. After rescuing Six and earning her trust, she accompanies Mono on his journey and it is a real game changer for a game I felt needed no changing at all. Puzzles now involve using Mono and an AI controlled Six, to find the solution often with Six providing a much-needed boost up to reach a higher window or gap to climb through. Large objects may require both Mono and Six to move it and working to keep both of them safe will give players true nightmares.
The strength of the connection between the player and both Mono and Six becomes very strong very early in the game. I often found myself as Mono, stopping to see and make sure that Six was ok. The AI is also very good for Six, when she is needed to help, the AI is right on the money every time and so few times did I have to go and collect her to bring her with me, there is even a very charming animation detail that Mono and Six will hold hands when using the grip button on Right Trigger and Mono can then lead Six around. I also was very thankful that the AI controlling Six would not just run to the solution either to spoil it allowing me the time needed to work it out for myself. Most of the interaction between Mono and Six when it comes to teaming up, is based on the proximity of Six to Mono, but when you are for example, ready to push a large object and are already in the push position, it will make Six come to you and Six is far quicker to react than some of the Vikings in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla when it comes to needing someone to help you open a door, just saying Ubisoft!
The puzzling is definitely a mixture of what players of the first Little Nightmares would instantly recognise but also new ideas which make good use of the two-character mechanic and other elements based on Mono’s strength. Mono can use large items as a weapon which can for example, be used to smash through an already damaged door panel or to defend against immediate threats. Thankfully this mechanic is not overused to the extent that it becomes too combat focused as the instances are kept very minimal and very contextual depending on that moment and chapter environment. There is still the trial-and-error approach to some puzzles, in particular the puzzles that require precise running and jumping and by precise I do mean exactly that, be out of position or not moving fast enough or grabbing a ledge in time can result in Mono falling and having to replay that section. Thankfully the checkpoints are far more forgiving this time around in answer to the criticism of the first game but there will be some sections that may prove frustrating on your first run through the game which can make this a very nice dip in and dip out experience if you do find it that frustrating, a break can also help that solution that’s been eluding itself from you, become clearer. Puzzles can be very common sense such as move this box over here to reach this window or they can be more complicated involving Six as well or some level of action like running. The variety and difficulty spikes are actually very well balanced, a lesson taken from the first game no doubt, and I also love that some of the solutions can very so common sense that you fool yourself into thinking it requires something far more complex and spend 20 minutes on a problem that only required ten seconds of effort, that is just how well the chapters and sections are designed.
Little Nightmares 2 is the sequel I and no doubt fans of the first game hoped for and it is a game that has certainly benefitted from the delays to make it even more polished on release that I actually only encountered a few issues which can be fixed in quality-of-life updates such as some of the scripted scenes failing to reset upon recovering from a death or not letting go of a held object fast enough when you quickly needed to get away from an event or enemy. The story is tremendous and even if you have not played the first game, which you absolutely will seek out to do if you play this game first, you can enjoy this strange and dangerous world for the first time but with enough nods to make fans of the original get something special from playing this.
I loved my whole time with this that I dived back into to find the collectibles of Hats that Mono can wear and strange ‘glitches’ in the world to find so do make sure you take the time to explore every corner of every section just to make sure you do not miss anything. This is truly one of the best game sequels I have had the pleasure of playing after enjoying the first game. The grotesque beauty of this game will have you equally recoiling from it and appreciating it in equal measure and if you spend a little bit more for the Digital Deluxe Edition then you will also get the digital soundtrack to enjoy in all its majesty as well as a fantastic digital art book which I do recommend you look at only after completing the game. I certainly have my eyes on the ‘TV Edition’ Collectors version of this game for some point this year.
Mono and Six make a perfect team in a horrible world that draws you as the player and them as characters into its darkness so effortlessly oh and make sure you listen carefully throughout the end credits too! There will always be something extra creepy about discovering that the only way into a place is via the same way that someone escaped…!