Little Nightmares 2 is a fantastic horror game full of clever puzzles, haunting encounters and one of the most atmospheric settings I’ve experienced since Limbo. But a few unforgiving elements and AI quirks can make it more frustrating than fun to pay.
- Haunting setting will send chills down your spine
- Great level design
- One of the best horror game soundtracks in recent memory
- Very unforgiving to newcomers in some sections
- Occasional AI bugs
- Review Price: £24.99
- Release Date: February 10, 2020
- Platforms: Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC Single player
- Genre: Platformer/Horror
- Developer: Tarsier Studios
Little Nightmares 2 is a haunting puzzle platformer that tasks you to navigate your way through a diverse and horrifying world full of twisted monsters and hazardous traps.
The game is a direct sequel to the original Little Nightmares that launched in 2018. It aims to directly build on the original’s solid terrifying atmosphere and problem solving platform mechanics by adding more settings, combat sections and an ICO like buddy system.
Little Nightmares 2 is a horror game first and platformer second
- Little Nightmares 2 is divided into five distinct chapters each with different settings
- Little Nightmares 2 is roughly twice as long as the original and took us roughly eight hours to complete on our first playthrough
- Little Nightmares 2 is one of the best horror games we’ve played this year
Like the original, Little Nightmares 2 wears its Limbo inspiration on its sleeve. It sees you take the role of Mono, a tiny child, as you navigate him through a hostile world full of dangerous monsters eager to capture or eat you. The only initial difference is that for specific sections you will have the help of Six, the protagonist of the original game, as both an AI companion, and person to protect.
At its core this means gameplay is fairly familiar, with the game being split into linear chapters and sections, each containing a mix of puzzle solving, platforming and set piece events. The primary way you solve puzzles is by grabbing, pulling or throwing objects within the hostile world.
While this doesn’t sound that original, or different to Limbo, where Little Nightmares once again exceeds expectation is the sheer amount of terror and fear it instils in you. The world is one of the most horrifying I’ve seen and been forced to navigate since that of Silent Hill 2.
The Tim Burton inspiration is immediately obvious with Mono and Six being forced to run through a world full of misshapen giant humanoid monsters that look like R-Rated versions of the Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas characters.
It’s a neurotically created, horrifyingly dark fairytale world where no detail has been overlooked. Mysterious monsters and skulking creatures litter the strange landscape, where light is a scarcity and the threat of imminent death or capture lurks around every corner. The lack of light and colour on anything but the odd candle emphasises the game’s lonely, oppressive feeling.
Normally this wouldn’t be enough to make up for the lack of insight into the game’s narrative and basic gameplay but there’s something about the children’s helplessness, who stand on shaky legs and shudders helplessly whenever the floorboards creak that made me want to help, even when the game was terrifying me in return.
Over and over again Little Nightmares 2 uses the world and subtle animations to expertly pluck the heartstrings. These range from moments where the mouse-sized children visibly shuddered in fear when cautiously pushing open a door, or strained to get up and keep moving on broken bones before dying after a mistimed jump or being captured by one of the lurking threats.
This is especially true given that death is quick and can come at any time, with the game’s monsters proving surprisingly sprightly and having all manner of horrific ways to catch you. In one segment I nearly wet myself when I discovered a giant school mistress I was trying to sneak past could not only do a 360 degree, Exorcist style, neck twist, she could also elongate her neck like a snake. The first time the head appeared from above and snapped poor Mono up into her jaws, his little legs kicking the entire time, I genuinely had to take five mins to process the horror I’d just witnessed.
What really makes Little Nightmares 2 stand out, even compared to its predecessor, is the increased variety of horror on offer. Little Nightmares one was a carefully crafted, but brief experience seeing you take Six through one ship called the Maw. By comparison, Little Nightmares 2 sees you navigate through five different chapters each set in distinct worlds. Not giving any spoilers away, the variety is a tangible upgrade that helps keep you on your toes with each new twist adding unique gameplay experiences and custom mechanics designed to terrify you. A scene with a flashlight in a hospital that makes Arkham Asylum look like a summer resort was a particular highlight.
The sense of dread is further aided by the game’s soundtrack. Written by Tobius Lija the music and effects do a wonderful job of elevating the tension. With each segment, the music managed to crescendo at just the right time to make my heart jump and the distant sound of a pot jangling offered a terrifying warning of incoming danger. I haven’t experienced a better job using sound design to instil fear since Resident Evil 7.
The only downside is that the horror levels occasionally reach such heights that I genuinely sprinted through sections of the game out of fear, missing out on a number of the game’s discoverable items. These include custom hats for Mono and the mysterious ghosts of lost children, which give a minor insight into the game’s law and, as quoted by the developer, “give you a taste of something exclusive” when you find them all.
But it terrorises you in some annoying ways occasionally
- The game can be punishingly difficult
- Some of the game’s set pieces are finicky due to technical errors
- Little Nightmares 2’s adds combat mechanics with mixed success
So far so good? For the most part, I’d agree and list Little Nightmares 2 as one of the best horror games and best PC games to arrive over the last year. But sadly there are a few minor annoyances that can break the game’s otherwise terrifically immersive gameplay.
The biggest of these come during the game’s set piece sneaking and escape sections. These are the parts that see you trying to navigate your way past one of the game’s numerous monsters either with stealth or speed. They see you doing things like clambering up book cases while trying to avoid a terrifying giant librarian doing inventory, or outrun a pursuing doctor intent on eating you. The sections are fun, but the game’s brutal mechanics occasionally feel like you’re being punished unfairly due to technical issues rather than poor decisions.
This is especially true on the faster-paced escape sections where Mono and Six are trying to escape pursuing monsters. On more than one occasion I would be forced to re-start the section because an event wouldn’t trigger fast enough, despite performing the right action and navigating the platforming sequence correctly.
The co-op sections with Six are particularly frustrating at times for similar reasons. These are parts of the game where Six takes on the role of an AI helper, doing things like helping you push heavy objects to solve puzzles that would otherwise be impossible for just one person. When the sections work, they are great, with the ability to hold Six’s hand giving me distinct flashbacks to ICO – which remains one of the best platformers ever made. But, during the chase sections, Six’s slow response becomes a real annoyance that leads to cheap feeling deaths.
I’m also not completely sold on some of the game’s new combat sections. These thankfully happen fairly infrequently but still feel slightly out of place. Unlike most of the encounters with monsters, these task Mono to physically repel, rather than evade monsters using things like hammers and other giant tools littered around the map. The mechanic technically works and the animations of him attempting to swing an object close to twice his size are on point, but in my mind detracts from the game’s premise, which sets you out as a helpless child trying to escape a hellscape.
These annoyances aside, Little Nightmares 2 is still a fantastic game, especially for horror fans. I just can’t help but think the game could have been easily improved with a bit more fine-tuning.
You should buy Little Nightmares 2 if:
If you’re a fan of horror games Little Nightmares 2 is a wonderfully immersive experience full of terrifying encounters that’ll leave you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The platforming and puzzle sections will also appeal to more cerebral gamers that don’t want to blast their way through each challenge.
You shouldn’t buy Little Nightmares 2 if:
The only downside is that some AI bugs and finicky gameplay mechanics can make certain sections a frustrating, rather than entertaining experience, making it ill-suited for repeat rage throwers.