Game Review: Little Nightmares II

Release date: 2021
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2021

The follow up to the 2017 entry, which I reviewed here, is Little Nightmares II, once again developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Across a handful of unique, sinister locations, Mono and his companion solve puzzles and attempts to survive against the dangers of the world, and the monstrosities within. As with the first game, the game portrays this via a 2.5D, side scrolling adventure, with numerous puzzles and platforming elements.

+ despite no dialogue, the game manages to really portray Mono and his companion with genuine emotions, and you’ll grow attached to them very early. The button press to “call” your companion, usually a hushed whisper is endearing, and the dedicated hand-holding mechanic is genuinely heart warming
+ fantastic audio design, including echoing footsteps and whispers from Mono and his companion, as well as the eerie sound of wind rustling through the trees, the crackle of electricity and raspy breathing and howls of monsters
+ the atmosphere is phenomenal, once again building with sound and background visuals before the reveal of whoever (or whatever) will be giving you grief for the next 20 to 30 minutes. It’s a shame that often gets blown by some clunky setpieces (see below)
+ the story is bare, and leaves almost as much explained (intentionally or otherwise) as the first game, with a few twists and turns around Mono, his companion, and the monstrous inhabitants of the world

– the early trailers made the interplay between newcomer Mono, and his initially unnamed companion, look like it was tailor made for cooperative multiplayer, but unfortunately that is not the case
– there is now some light combat elements, and I did not care for them at all. They felt clunky, and the timing was difficult to make sense of, leading to many many replayed section. Thematically I also felt they clashed with the story, by giving these children some way to fight back
– the chase sequences from the first game make a return, but for one reason or another they feel far less forgiving, and therefore far less fun. Running from a grotesque, caterpillar-like doctor as he flips over gurneys you are hiding underneath is great at first, but as you get snagged on a small piece of level geometry or don’t make a would-be easy jump only to have to repeat it a half dozen times is frustrating and loses all tension. It’s a fine line between having no consequence for failure and losing the built up goodwill of a game, and I don’t know what that answer is
– the game is short (despite being longer than the first game) and has a few more “filler rooms” between the moments here. In general that’s not a bad thing, as it builds the tension etc, but often times the checkpoint is the beginning of an empty room prior to the chase/puzzle/combat encounter etc

> It’s not a direct comparison, as such, but if the first Little Nightmares game was Limbo, this sequel is definitely INSIDE (which I loved, and reviewed here)
> in case you never saw it, watch this advertisement trailer

Should you play this game: Straight up, I don’t think this was as good as the first game for a few reasons, but it was still well worth playing, especially if you enjoyed the first game. Some new mechanics are a bit hit and miss, but the core gameplay is just as exciting, and the atmosphere and environments are still phenomenal.

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