Little Nightmares 2 Review: Beautiful Nightmare Fuel
The original Little Nightmares released to extremely positive reviews back in 2017. Its combination of grotesque and terrifying visuals, a mysterious narrative, and plenty of puzzle platforming made quite the splash.
Now developer Tarsier Studios is taking us back into this creepy little world with Little Nightmares 2, a game that builds off the style and successes of the original while adding some new ideas and continuing the story.
Little Nightmares 2 Review: Beautiful Nightmare Fuel
Little Nightmares 2 can be best described as an atmospheric puzzle platformer. You step into the role of a child named Mono, who wakes up in a mysterious world full of dangers. As you explore your surroundings, very little of the story is directly spelled out. You're not going to find audio logs teasing a big bad or a cackling villain explaining their master plan.
Instead, Little Nightmares 2 relies on its clever world building to hint at what has happened in the terrifying places you explore. The world is suffering. Environments are destroyed and dilapidated, filled with discarded belongings from before whatever calamity afflicted this world.
Clothing piled into dumpsters, flickering spirit children, and a mysterious television signal are just some of the many aspects you'll spot that indicate exactly how things went wrong.
As you pull levers, avoid traps, and puzzle out how to get through the next area, you'll want to explore every little side area to make sure you don't miss a thing.
For the most part, the enemies in Little Nightmares 2 tower over you, and if they catch you, it's game over. In the first game, you can dodge and sneak past beings like the Chefs and the incredibly-long-armed Janitor. In Little Nightmares 2, there are a number of different types of confrontations; sometimes, you'll even have to take the fight directly to your foes.
The enemies you encounter here are every bit as horrifying and full of surprises. There were multiple times when trying to survive against these different foes made me jump out of my seat, as they're prone to bursting through doors or turning suddenly as you make a break for it.
Though the levels aren't laid out to look like it, most of your attempts to survive against these insta-kill foes are essentially timing puzzles. You'll need to hide under a desk here, cause a distraction there, and sprint into a narrow grate just as they reach out to grab you.
That means Little Nightmares 2 features a lot of trial and error; due to the nature of some of the game's puzzles, death will sometimes just hit you out of nowhere. Checkpoints are generally very close to one another, so it usually isn't too frustrating.
Sometimes, it takes a bit more "error" than I would like to figure out the perfect combination of events to get me to the next scene. In that way, Little Nightmares 2 is a game that sometimes desperately calls for a break. You can easily find yourself beating your head against the wall, restarting a section a dozen times and getting nowhere. That's before giving up in frustration.
This is most apparent in the game's combat sections. There are some minor enemies this time around, and you can grab items littered around the environment to smack them around. This is easier said than done, however.
Usually, the weapons you find are as big as your character. Swinging them takes a lot of time, and it's incredibly hard to judge how far you'll swing and how quickly your enemies are moving. There are multiple sections that had me swearing because I would couldn't work out the timing for how to smack the different enemies that were charging towards me.
But more often than not, when I put the game down and returned with a clear mind, I breezed through the section I was stuck on in the first couple of tries. That "obtuseness" is the only aspect of Little Nightmares 2 I can fault, and even that has some old-school charm to it. You're going to die multiple times here; that's just par for the course.
Little Nightmares 2 Review — The Bottom Line
- Extremely impressive atmosphere
- Well-designed environments
- Gives the player credit, not full of prompts and tutorial sections
- Compelling story to uncover
- Some sections are overly frustrating
- Combat mechanics are unimpressive
Little Nightmares 2 is a lot more substantial than the first game, offering more foes and environments to explore. It also continues the story threads from the first game; even though you're playing as a new character, you'll encounter an old friend early on who will follow you on much of the journey.
There's also a new central antagonist to deal with, and you'll see several hints of this nasty foe (and some of what they've done to cause so much destruction to the world) as you move forward through the different areas of Little Nightmares 2.
Finally, Little Nightmares 2 just feels good to play. The way everything flows together with hidden loading screens and a vast, interconnected environment, the way the massive enemies seem to be going about daily routines until they spot you, sending them into a terrifying rage — this game begs you to keep exploring its twisted world and rarely ceases to impress.
In short, Little Nightmares 2 is a must-have if you are a fan of the first game or similar platformers like Limbo or Inside. It's creepy and gorgeous, and it flexes the puzzle-solving areas of your brain. It isn't perfect, but it is one of the best in the genre.
[Note: Bandai Namco provided the copy of Little Nightmares 2 used for this review.]