Getting into the spirit of the spooky season, Bandai Namco recently granted us access to a demo of Little Nightmares 2. The demo was brief, amounting to around 30 minutes of gameplay, however it granted a good glimpse into what we should expect when the game releases in February next year.
The cute yet spooky game will be familiar to those who played the original when it released back in 2017. Original protagonist Six is still present, however the demo for Little Nightmares 2 left Six as a tagalong with the player taking control of new character, Mono. The two will work together to move through an oversized and horrifying world, platforming and puzzling their way to victory whilst avoiding all kind of terrifying beings.
Certainly one of the most engaging aspects of the Little Nightmares franchise are the horrifying monster designs our protagonists will come up against. The original game, and from what we’ve seen the sequel too, excel when it comes to building atmosphere and the visual design of the world around you. Within the demo of Little Nightmares 2, Six and Mono find themselves up against a new type of foe and a world filled with what appear to be creepy marionette / mannequin figures.
The game is part puzzle / platformer and part horror game. You’ll wander around the dimly lit halls, cautious of every mannequin you pass, looking for the next item to collect or surface to climb. Within the Little Nightmares 2 demo, there’s a constant feeling of unease. You’re surrounded by inanimate yet unsettling figures that you know may spring to life at any given second. It’s not long before you see one of these figures animate either. At first it’s a hand that crawls at you and then later the game introduces its first big threat, which are mannequins that can only move when in the dark. It’s a great showcase of the intelligent enemy design we will hopefully find within the full release. These foes are inherently scary because they are all around you and you never know which one is going to suddenly animate and run at you with murderous intent. Keeping to the light, sprinting when needed, and shining your flashlight onto them is your only form of self defense.
The Little Nightmares 2 demo proved that the game is still first class in certain areas. The presentation of the game, the haunting atmosphere, the mystery and intrigue – it’s all still present and very effecting. The monster designs and sound designs are superb too. Unfortunately I never considered the original Little Nightmares to be a perfect game, and the sequel appears to be shaping up to stumble in similar ways. Playing on PC, a controller is absolutely mandatory. But even then, controls can be a little awkward. I don’t expect Little Nightmares 2 to be a highly precise game, but there’s definitely room for improvement when it comes to the platforming and aiming. It all just feels a little too awkward to be satisfying. And perhaps part of that is intended design; leave the player feeling weak and useless in an intimidating world. But it also has the potential to be a little frustrating too when you get caught for the tenth time due to the awkwardness of the controls.
Replaying sections of the game makes them lose their charm too. This is a horror game, and the more often you get caught by a foe the less impactful it becomes. Once you go through a segment of the game for the second or third time, the same moments of fear just don’t work anymore and it becomes busywork. It’s a shame that Little Nightmares and seemingly its sequel rely on these moments all too often. You move into a new area, meet a new threat, attempt to escape with your life, but inevitably fail because it got the jump on you and you weren’t prepared for that moment or didn’t know where to go. So you reload a checkpoint and do it again and again until you beat it. These moments lose all impact and charm because unfortunately the gameplay isn’t compelling enough to make you enjoy replaying a segment once the novelty wears off.
Regardless of any shortcomings, it’s clear that Little Nightmares 2 is set to be a compelling release for those who enjoy the atmosphere and design of these games. I’m certainly interested to see what other kinds so foes Mono and Six will come across in the full release, with one particular bloated beasty being teased at the end of the demo. Little Nightmares 2 is set to release February 11 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Next gen versions will then become available later in 2021.