As much as I adored the original Little Nightmares: Complete Edition, my memories of it have somewhat waned like a member of the Losers Club parting ways from the small, cursed town of Derry. For the life of me, I struggled to recall any key moments from what I experienced the first time around. Yet, somehow, the lingering feeling of suspense and sheer anxiety still manages to stay with me.
I made the conscious choice not to search for ways to remind myself of the first game, but rather simply go into Little Nightmares II blind. I wanted to see if this sequel could jog my memory of the vague connection I had with the little girl in the yellow raincoat, who sailed the sea in the Maw.
The very moment I stepped back once again into a child’s shoes only mere footsteps away from the Tim Burton-esque lullaby that cradles the main menu, my memories flooded back to me like it was only yesterday. I felt subconsciously ready, and almost military trained to a degree, to deal with anything this sequel would throw at me. “Pull this, climb that, hide in there and run away. Simple,” I would tell myself as I tread 40 yards from the starting point.
The magic of fear that accompanied the first game was all about the simmer that truly enforced the horror element. It was never really about the scare as such, but rather the overwhelming slow build-up towards a rolling boil. However, it didn’t take long to find out the hard way that not only does the magic carry over into this highly anticipated sequel, it pushes the boundaries of suspense and anxiety until it bursts banks of sheer horror.
Little Nightmares II has a cunning tendency to pray on a common fear that we all share. Our childhood, and the potent imagination that came with it. By simply merging the atmosphere of excellent sound, intelligent camera work, clever animation and possessing the body of a pre-adolescent, this genius recipe manages to steam over most efforts that the movie industry has attempted in the last 20 years or so.
I could, and probably should, pen down some examples of standout moments in this Little Nightmares II review to provide a tease of what to expect in this doll-house horror of a sequel. After all, in looking back, the marketing team seemed more than willing to spill some beans in the name of promotion. In any case, I flat out refuse to mention anything at all that could spoil what lies ahead. All I am willing to share is the feeling I had. Whether it be the result of the eerie effect of stop-motion style frames clapping together or the sense of one of those dreams where the faster you try to run, the heavier your legs become.
Those who are a fan of the first game will undoubtedly soak up all interpretation of lore this sequel has to offer. While those new to the series could easily dive in and work their way backwards, the subtleties of certain revelations will surely make more of an impact if played in order. This is a sequel to a successful entry point after all, so expect bigger production and a higher emphasis than what arrived previously. While Little Nightmares II is very much more of the same with bigger bells and whistles, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it substitutes any blind lack of extra care and attention.
The visual scope itself appears much wider than the first game as it moves away from the self-contained vessel of the Maw. However, Little Nightmares II still prioritises style over substance by keeping the experience relatively short – clocking in at a similar half a dozen hours. I would have loved to have held onto the experience just a little while longer. Although, I do respect the obvious intention of not feeling the obligation to overstay its welcome.
The strong focus on environmental puzzle-solving has been sewn in seamlessly enough not to break character of the world in any way, and for better or for worse, rarely ever taxing enough to stump the player for too long. What could be regarded as the easy and obvious lean for a sequel is the addition of a fellow companion to share the load. The first game was always focused solely on the feeling of loneliness and being isolated amongst a vile world of gluttony and consumerism. Adding a partner into the mix to aid the way could potentially jeopardize the mood. Instead, it barely lightens the burden at all.
The result illustrates a Hansel and Gretel-style companionship within a dark and damp world that stays consistently organic. The way a subtle call for attention and body language welds a relationship between both young protagonists manages to create a far stronger bond of character building than a verbal script ever could.
With that said, the general technical flow of cooperation maintains a steady pace without the necessity of swapping between characters. Everything governs to gel well enough for the most part, with maybe a few instances of interference from an AI ally. Despite loading screens getting a significant boost this time around, the inconveniences in judging distances when confronted with leap of faiths and broad trial and error encounters are still quite heavily abundant. In all fairness though, these are common traits traditionally found within this particular genre. One that spans way back from the likes of Prince of Persia, Flashback, Heart of Darkness all the way to LIMBO.
Following closely in the footsteps of its predecessor, Little Nightmares II is an indie darling hiding a triple-A development team under the floorboards. It takes the cream of cinematic interpretations of The Ring, Poltergeist, IT and even Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and whisks them further into a butter of pitch-black imagination. It may not steer too far from the apple tree when it comes to evolving its gameplay, but what it does do is dim the lights even lower to carry on the momentum for another satisfying and nerve-wracking experience.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment