Back to Mono…
Four years past, I was sadistically enamoured at the hand of Tarsier Studios by Little Nightmares, a terrifying and haunting experience following a seemingly innocent little girl by the name of Six; desperately trying to escape the grotesque clutches of The Maw. This insufferable yet exhilarating experience has lingered with me to this very day, and has, and will always remain one of my top recommended gems that all should experience! Though I’ll be honest, a little part of me really just wants to instil dread into everyone, and your nightmares of course.
So here I am! I have now matured into my thirties and I would love to believe that I have become more adept at avoiding self-inflicted stress and emotional torment. Sadly, it turns out I’m somewhat of a masochist as when I became aware that Little Nightmares II was in the works, I could not help but tremble in fear and excitement at the prospect of facing this evocative experience again! Needless to say, I jumped right in at the earliest opportunity, so without further ado, let me prepare you for your new nightmare!
Little Nightmares II is a dark, thrilling suspense-adventure set sometime after Six’s escape from The Maw, and shifts focus to a new young boy named Mono and the Pale City, a decaying metropolis tormented and distorted by a distant, malevolent and mysterious tower at the hands of the Thin Man. In an imposing world that seems too cruel and lonely for such a small child, not long after your journey begins, you encounter previous protagonist Six, where together you join hands to unravel the dark secrets held within and fight for your life and struggle against your terrible fate.
Your journey begins in the dismal forest, shrouded by fog and dense looming trees with the occasional television set lying around, which strangely has no place in being there. This unsettling environment engulfs you with a dank feeling as the long grass sways in the foreground whilst the trees and falling leaves fade into the depths of an otherwise grand backdrop. As you venture through the forest, do not let the initial stillness fool you, as there are many treacherous traps lying in wait. From swinging logs to bone crushing bear traps, you must use your instincts, pick up and throw items around you if you hope to make it through the first hurdle and indeed survive the horrors ahead. As with its predecessor, gameplay utilises simple mechanics but by no means does this mean these little nightmares pose no challenge, as once again it takes a creative imagination and clever application of the tactile environment to surpass the many obstacles and puzzles throughout.
New mechanics are soon introduced, and it becomes apparent that Little Nightmares II has somewhat matured from its more innocent roots, with a more violent call to arms making it into your very hands in the forms of items like axes or shotguns that can be picked up and used to destroy surrounding doors and not least outright attacking your bloodthirsty enemies. Another new mechanic has been introduced in the form of companionship. Having rescued Six from the Hunter, you must work together to overcome obstacles, from being hoisted up to unreachable heights to taking a leap of faith over a perilous chasm toward an outstretched hand. I for one am thankful from the bottom of my fast-pounding heart for this addition, as the looming omen of my previous experience was somewhat relieved knowing I did not have to venture on alone. That being said, Six is controlled by the computer and gameplay remains a single player experience. Though perhaps this is for the best, as I’m sure any potential player two would soon nope out of the situation as the inevitable shrieks and deaths ensue (which is certainly true on my part!).
As you duck, jump, swing and weave through a grim swamp, a short respite over a silent lake comes to an ominous halt, as you are struck with a sense of pessimism as the Pale City appears on the horizon. Thus begins 4 more chapters of dreaded torment which introduce a host of new horrifying residents and locations which will require quick ingenuity if you wish to make it through. Upon entering the city, the vast sense of depth and how small your existence feels within this world is made strikingly apparent from here out; but despite this, the intricate details lovingly crafted throughout is genuinely breath-taking. The School is a devilish place, filled with hollow bullies and a strict teacher that will make you wish the bell would ring out for the end, but there are some fun puzzles to occupy your mind. What could be worse than a creepy school though? The answer to that is an even creepier hospital. Never will you want out of somewhere so badly! It is here that I was briefly reminded of the Doctor Who episode ‘Rose’, where it turns out the inanimate mannequins and prosthetics are not so inanimate after all. The silent dark halls and operating rooms abruptly fill with eerie music and the sounds of something crawling around before you see something move in the corner of your eye, which is quickly followed by a heart pounding pursuit making you wish you did indeed have a sonic screwdriver rather than a flickering torchlight. Certainly, that is one doctor you never want to run into again.
As you start to reach the end, the true race begins as the Thin Man amplifies his pursuit and the world starts to distort, utilising and controlling televisions to traverse and evade him and the mesmerised viewers. This was perhaps the most inspiring yet confounding experience, with the concept of reality bent as you traverse daunting labyrinths in seemingly perpetual motion that remind me somewhat of the works ‘Cycle’ and ‘Relativity’ by M. C. Escher. Trying to find the right path through was rather strenuous, but what awaited on the other side made me want to run right back in and lose myself in its madness.
With that, this is all I can bring myself to say. I will divulge no more than these final thoughts.