When we reviewed Little Nightmares back in 2017 we described it as a game that was full of atmosphere and interesting ideas that didn’t quite follow through. Poor controls, a lack of reward for exploration and few actual scares held it back from being a great game. Now, Tarsier Studios are back with a sequel in Little Nightmares II, and thanks to our friends at Bandai Namco we were able to go hands on with a preview build of the game on PC.
The Little Nightmares II preview build we played contained a single level of the game which took place in what was seemingly the previously announced location the Hospital. It started with Mono, a young boy wearing a paper bag as a mask, and Six, the main character from the original Little Nightmares, in a sitting room within the Hospital. Immediately, we were struck with the same sense of atmosphere that we found when we played the first game. Poor lightning, eery figures sitting everywhere, a static filled television and barely a whisper of sound started pulling at me straight away.
Creeping my way up the stairs to the next floor, I found what was clearly my next objective: an open door. Much like the original game, Little Nightmares II does away with objective markers and instead relies on environmental design to guide you to your next objective. It fell over a couple of times through this level, with interactable elements of the environment being difficult to make out, but it generally worked well as we were funnelled from place to place. While there were a couple of slight opportunities for exploration in the preview build, it was largely linear. This may of course be different in other levels and locations in the game.
Moving through the door, we crept into the next room, finding a series of light puzzle-platforming sections to complete. Our ultimate goal was to find two fuses, which would then power an elevator out of the level, with plenty of obstacles along the way. Almost immediately, we were greeted by one of the new enemies in the game, a Living Hand. Think Thing from The Addams Family. If allowed to catch us, it would latch onto Mono’s face, suffocating him to death. Quickly, we realised that our only hope was to dodge as the Living Hand geared up to lunge at us, and strategically climbing onto furniture as it recovered from its failed lunge. Reaching the end of this section, we engaged in a battle with a Living Hand, slamming a hammer into it and eventually crushing and killing it. Throughout this we found that the movement controls were much improved compared to the original game, although aiming the hammer to hit the Living Hand was a touch unresponsive.
That sentiment continued on into the second half of the Little Nightmares II preview build. Using the fuse to open another area, we were greeted by Patients who would rush towards you and crush you in their arms unless light was shone upon them. This was easily the most scary section of the build, as we made our way through rooms filled with figures, not knowing which were Patients until they rushed towards us. It was a fantastically eery and tense experience, but somewhat hindered by torch aiming controls that felt a bit unresponsive and sluggish at points, leading us to get caught when we otherwise wouldn’t have been. Still, even with that slight annoyance, we thoroughly enjoyed dashing away, throwing our torch around as Patients chased us from behind and appeared from all directions.
Overall, the Little Nightmares II preview was an exciting taste of things to come. While what we played didn’t address all of the issues we had with the original, it showed enough improvement and promise to have us excited for the future. If you’re a fan of puzzle-platformers or tense, atmospheric games, Little Nightmares II is one to keep an eye on.
Little Nightmares II releases on February 11 for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S versions coming at a later date as free upgrades for current generation owners. For more information, check out the official website.