True genre fans may get more of a kick out of this than we did...
I passed on Little Nightmares back in 2017, thinking it more of a puzzle game than anything else. If Little Nightmares 2 is any indication, Bandai Namco’s newest franchise is more akin to Playdead’s grotesque side-scrolling titles like Limbo and Inside, with puzzle solving elements from Unravel and Brothers thrown in for good measure.
While that combination of popular titles may excite genre fans, the rest of us will likely feel like we’ve been there and done it all before its narrative comes to an end.
Little Nightmares 2 opens in the same way as Limbo: you’re introduced to its protagonist with little fanfare, tasked to head towards the right of the screen in order to continue on. While the occasional on-screen prompt will advise you of the button needed to grasp, crouch or perform a similar action, you’re largely left to your own devices. While your character can yell out, he doesn’t talk. Any narrative offered needs to be gathered and assembled by you, the player, based on what’s occuring around you.
Just like in Limbo, you’re at the mercy of its developers. Eagle-eyed players might notice the first rope hidden amongst fallen leaves on the forest bed, but most will not. No need to worry, though — you’ll certainly notice when you’re then trapped in a net or when a rigged log violently falls from the skies and crushes your tiny body. Little Nightmares 2 is full of these instances, split-second occurrences that you’ll largely be unprepared; you’ll die, respawn, and then work around them. I found these instances derivative and annoying at the beginning of the game, and didn’t feel any different as I progressed.
I personally have an issue with titles that have you relentlessly chased by something, and Little Nightmares 2‘s first level is all about that. You’ll be stalked by a shotgun-clad Hunter who will chase you and a newfound friend for a majority of the level. The title is a side-scroller at heart, but with added depth that means you can run towards and away from the screen too. These chase sequences proved problematic at times because you’re tasked to get behind objects or run across planks under a timer, and it’s sometimes hard to tell what plane you’re actually lined up with. That means you’ll die — and die quite a bit — but thankfully quick loads back to a previous checkpoint are quick and mean you can keep going and try to line up your actions straight away.
The game’s second level drops a bit of that chase theme, though does introduce several smaller sequences with that same level of tension. I feel that these were done better than in the past, though here I couldn’t help but fixate on the imagery being used. Set in a school, your primary antagonist comes in the form of deformed children, ill-tempered and with heads made of shattered porcelain. While effective, it’s here that I started to realise that Little Nightmares 2 simply wants to deliver disturbing content under some general, over-arching themes. There’s a narrative that continues on — though we’ll leave that be as to not spoil it — but I can’t help but feel it falls to the wayside in order to provide uncomfortable content.
Little Nightmares 2 is certainly polished and beautifully stylised, but it didn’t offer me a new experience. While many on-screen antagonists snared me in their traps, it itself didn’t grab me. I far prefer the titles I mentioned before — Limbo, Inside and Unravel — over this, but fans of this genre will certainly feel differently.
Little Nightmares 2 was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox Series X, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.