Review – Little Nightmares II
It was almost four years ago now that Tarsier Studios surprised everyone with Little Nightmares. This little indie puzzle platformer was an unassuming project that captured our imaginations and horrified us in ways that I didn’t know a side-scroller could. Its alluring soundtrack intrigued players with its mystery and urged players to keep playing, to look around just one more corner, even when players knew that it could still get worse. Little Nightmares II takes that looming feeling and layers on an uncomfortable amount of urgency to provide and even better experience than the first.
Little Nightmares II puts players in the role of Mono, a young boy/little person-thing who wakes up in the middle of the woods only a few inches away from a static CRT TV. In classic Little Nightmares fashion, players set of on their journey without any idea of who they are and what they’re doing. It takes little time before players stumble the first in a long series of morbid traps in the form of a bear trap hidden beneath foliage. The first death is hard to avoid as players, especially those new to the series, won’t know to expect it. It’s a quick death that sets the dark tone appropriately, though it does little to prepare players for just how dark Little Nightmares II can be.
Some players might be disappointed to discover how often this world will claim their lives, but they shouldn’t despair. Little Nightmares II has frequent checkpoints that are never far back enough to be bothersome. Even during deliberately difficult moments where players are evading one of the adult monsters, checkpoints typically trigger at the beginning of each new room. Boss chases that take place through multiple rooms will auto-save at the beginning of each new room, giving players a fail place to restart when they inevitably fail. While I wouldn’t call Little Nightmares II a “relaxing” game, these feature gives the game a more casual approach that prevents players from getting too frustrated, even in its most difficult parts.
Early on in the game, Mono will encounter a young girl that player would have been less likely to recognize were it not for her inclusion in the marketing materials. When player’s initially find Six, she’s not quite the same character that we know. She appears to to be far more frail than players remember and is quietly sitting, playing with a music box. It’s up to Mono to help guide her out of the words and toward safety. Don’t fear, Little Nightmares II is not just a lengthy escort mission. Six is a helpful asset who will assist Mono in moving heavy objects and reaching high places.
As with the original game, Little Nightmares II features side-scrolling physics puzzles. Mono’s adventure feels a little less about careful puzzle solving and a little more about making quick escapes and some timed combat sequences. I absolutely loved the physics puzzles of the original and was sad to see them go. What used to be a slower paced puzzle and exploration game became about chase sequences, quickly outrunning a series of monsters and the Tall Man from the TV that pursued them.
Initially I felt the game had lost much of what made me love the first one so much. But what Little Nightmares II lost from a puzzle perspective, it gained in atmosphere and tension. Enemies move faster forcing players to go on intuition rather than a carefully plotted course.
The fastest enemies are the smallest ones. At several points Mono will have to fend off enemies as small as him and Six who move even faster than they do. Without the ability to outrun them, Six and Mono will have to defeat them in melee combat. Using objects like hammers and axes found scattered across the environment, Mono can grab and swing them at any threats to defend himself. Given that all the tools in the world are larger than Mono and Six, dragging around a large hammer only slows them down, meaning every swing needs to be perfectly timed. Miss, and it’s game over.
The story, like Little Nightmares, has no exposition at all, leaving players to interpret events and piece together the story themselves. Thankfully the sequel’s story is a little more clear on what happens, just not necessarily why, leaving the door open for interpretation. The best parts of the story are simply excellent twists and surprises that I can’t speak to without spoiling. On the other hand, I can’t very well speak to just how good this game is and the DLC potential that exists without talking about those moments. If you don’t care about spoilers, click the box below, otherwise scroll passed to stay spoiler free.
Final Chapter Spoilers
In the last chapter of the game, the Tall Man catches up to Six and Mono, snatches her away, and pulls her into the world on the other side of the TV. This turns Mono’s focus away from escaping the city and toward rescuing his friend. Players will sprint through an area filled with humans with warped faces who are all hypnotized by the TV. Eventually, the Tall Man reveals himself, goes head to head with Mono, and loses. With all his newfound strength, Mono barrels toward the signal tower at the center of the city.
But when Mono reaches Six, she’s something else entirely. She’s large and deformed like all the other monsters of the series. When we find her, she’s hunched over a larger version of the music box Mono first found her with as she desperately protects it. In an attempt to free her from her transformation and the signal tower, Mono attacks the music box.
What follows is a familiar escape sequence as Mono hides from Six as he seeks his own escape from the signal tower. But before players can escape they confront Six one last time. This particular encounter feels more like a boss fight than anything else players have experienced so far. Six is in the center of a room protecting her music box once more. Mono grabs an axe and uses a series of portals to jump from one side of the room to another, dodging Six’s grasp. After striking the music box several times, it breaks, freeing Six and returning her to her original form.
The final sequence is where it really all comes together. After freeing Six, a giant blob of goo with eyeballs (seemingly the eyes we’ve seen throughout the series) chase Mono and Six out of the tower as it collapses in on itself. A bridge collapses just before reaching the exit forcing Mono to take a leap of faith and hoping Six will catch him from the other side. Six catches Mono, but hesitates to help pull him up, contemplating just a little too long before releasing Mono and letting him fall.
Trapped and alone, Mono sits and waits in what’s left of the tower; slowly growing older, and taller, until finally we recognize him as the Tall Man. Since the beginning of the game, Mono and Six have been running from the Tall Man who is stuck in a time loop. Every cycle the Tall Man tries to separate Six and Mono from one another, only to be destroyed by the very thing he’s trying to save.
As I side note, I couldn’t help but think about Little Nightmares‘ influences. It feels only natural to draw connections between the animation style and the works of Henry Selick. But more than that, I kept thinking of Roald Dahl. I earlier referred to one of big monsters as an adult, which in passing doesn’t seem all that interesting until you consider that every one of Roald Dahl’s adult characters are either ridiculously foolish or absolutely cruel. He thinks very little of adults and given that this series’ main characters are all kids and are the titular “little nightmares”, I can help but think that the game’s creators took some inspiration from books like The Witches.
Little Nightmares II doesn’t have a tremendous amount of replay value. There are a few small challenges that would be worth returning to for the sake of collecting all of the game’s hats and glitches. If players manage to absorb all of the glitches, there’s a secret ending that alludes to Little Nightmares II actually being the prequel to the original that’s worth unlocking. Otherwise, a return to Mono’s adventure is unlikely for me until the inevitable expansions.
If I can wager a guess as to what player’s will experience in future DLC expansions it would be focused on Six’s side of the story. Six and Mono get separated on several occasions before Mono eventually comes to her rescue. Taking into consideration the game’s ending, I believe that off-screen events where the cause to the finale’s effect. I have no doubt that Tarsier Studios has plans for future content and while I’m happy to be surprised, I’d give quite a lot to see what happened during those moments of separation.
Regardless of whether or not I return to play Little Nightmares II again, it was one hell of a ride that I won’t soon forget. It had my attention from start to finish and was perfect through and through. The atmosphere, story surprises, and tense moments kept me up playing way too late on a work night and I don’t regret a moment of it. If Tarsier continues to create Little Nightmares content, I will buy it every time.
Little Nightmares‘ iconic animation style is back in an era where higher frame rates and textures only further highlight how morbidly beautiful this game is.
Little Nightmares II gives up physicals puzzles for tense chases and combat, which only improves upon an already great experience.
The soundtrack is haunting when it needs to unnerve you and adrenaline-inducing when it’s time to go. The theme and music box motif will continue to play in my head
Even after I completed the story, I’ve completely lost myself in the world of Little Nightmares II. It is without a doubt the best horror experience I’ve played since Resident Evil VII.
Final Verdict: 10
Little Nightmares II is available now on Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Android, and PC.
Reviewed on PC.