Little Nightmares 2 has everything you would expect from a sequel.
Tarsier Studio’s follow-up to its terrifying breakout horror puzzle-platformer may not be strictly a longer game, but by setting itself beyond the confines of the underwater Maw of the first game, it certainly feels like a bigger game, with even more horrible locales and moments to give you goosebumps.
If the predecessor’s grotesque imagery of twisted adults and cannibalism left you wondering what the heck is going on in its wider world, this might just give you the answers. However, it’s more likely to leave you scratching your head with more questions, such as when this even takes place.
Instead of the dark claustrophobic space of the Maw, you begin Little Nightmares 2 outdoors in the woods, though the extra space is no less unsettling. From here, you move mostly from left to right, gradually approaching civilisation – or rather what’s left of it – and a place that appears to be under the control of some mysterious transmission.
There are derelict homes, oppressive classrooms, and occasionally structures that defy logic with a more surreal quality, but they continue the series’ idea of presenting a horrible adult world from a tiny child’s perspective. The implied cannibalism of the original is less prevalent here but you’ll still have nasty depraved people out to get you, from a terrifying school teacher to the game’s own take on the slender man.
The other shift in perspective is that you play as new character Mono, an endearing-but-not-quite boy who wears a paper bag over his head, although there are a range of other things he can put on his head instead as hidden collectibles. He’s even able to put up a bit of a fight, as this game introduces a bit of light combat to the usual hide-and-seek stealth and platforming.
It’s not done an Ori however. In its sparing uses, you’re literally dragging a weapon behind you before summoning all your strength to bear it down onto an enemy your own size, or to bash through an already weakened door. You’re still very much vulnerable to the big bads you encounter, from whom you’ll just have to stay out of sight – or leg it.
On your Six
Even though he’s called Mono, you won’t be going through this adventure alone, as you’ll quickly meet a girl trapped in a house who turns out to be Six from the first game. That this isn’t immediately apparent – since it’s later that she acquires her trademark yellow raincoat, which also serves a proper function this time around – may even indicate that you’re actually playing a prequel.
Considering how she was the protagonist before, it wouldn’t do for Six to be playing second fiddle so she’s far from a damsel in distress or an AI companion who just follows you around. It actually makes for a refreshing reversal to see Six more often than not taking the lead, meaning you barely need to even call to get her attention.
Some puzzles will require you both working in tandem while other times you’ll see that she’s gone ahead to offer you a boost up a wall or waiting on the other side of a chasm with her hand out as you summon up courage to make the leap of faith.
It’s a bit of a shame that there’s no option for local co-op, especially for those who like playing horror games together, though it should be pointed out there’s still a good chunk of the game where Mono is by himself anyway. Chances are it would also risk getting in the way of the scripting, since Six’s actions have her clear of any immediate danger, leaving the countless deaths down to Mono. So at least you can’t blame the AI for any of your failures.
Do Not Adjust Your Television
But just as with its predecessor and other cinematic platformers of this variety, death can and will come frequently, with a few deliberately set-up as a cruel gotcha moment you’ll be sure to avoid next time. Each chapter is distinct in its mechanics and threats to keep things fresh throughout, even if it likes to keep a formula of suspense during its chase sequences where you’re always just a few frames away from being caught. It’s these moments however that also highlight Little Nightmares 2‘s shortcomings.
While it looks like a 2D platformer, you’re still actually moving in 3D space most of the time, except the mostly side-on camera can make straightforward moments more fussy than they should be, such as when traversing a narrow walkway or jumping over to a window ledge that you turn out not to be aligned for.
There are other niggles in its controls that render tense situations into frustration as you swear that you were holding the run button down, only for Mono not to make the necessary long jump and force another restart. That these niggles were apparent in the first game only makes it more disappointing that such issues haven’t been addressed.
Nonetheless, given that the game’s otherwise not too taxing or time-consuming, those flaws don’t outweigh the haunting Burtonesque atmosphere that will still power you through to its delightfully WTF conclusion, and no doubt leave you hungering for more.
Little Nightmares 2 Verdict
Beautifully horrid with even more twisted set pieces to keep you up at night, Little Nightmares 2 succeeds in shining a flickering light over its grotesque world while still keeping much enveloped in mystery.
Occasionally annoying glitches and controls risk derailing the experience, but the payoffs and a lifelike companion helping you survive it all ultimately makes this little game of horrors worthwhile.
Still a tense, frightening experience even when you’ve got company
Brilliantly creepy atmosphere in visuals and sound
Varied environments and mechanics make each chapter distinct
A decent, believable and proactive AI companion
Fiddly controls make platforming sections frustrating
No co-op option