The eagerly anticipated Little Nightmares II has arrived for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PCs, with versions that are native to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S coming later this year. Our review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, running on a PS5.
It’s been a while since we heard from developer Tarsier Studios, unless you have a Switch and played 2019’s The Stretchers. Before that, 2017 gave us both Little Nightmares and Statik, two excellent games that gave us high hopes for what was next. Turns out that that was Little Nightmares II, and that we had to wait until 2021 to play it.
Little Nightmares II follows familiar patterns, but features a new protagonist. While Six (from the first game) returns to help you out wearing her familiar yellow raincoat, you now play as a little boy called Mono – a kid who manages to be endearing despite wearing a creepy paper bag over his head. When the game starts you’re just outside the large city that we saw in the first game, only this time we actually get to explore some of it. There’s a wider sense of scale here, although Little Nightmares II is still a game that’s over before you want it to be.
Gameplay-wise, you’ll be able to jump right in if you played the first game, and shouldn’t have too much trouble as a newcomer either since the controls aren’t complex. You can walk and run around, jump, and hold on to objects that you can sometimes push or throw. Combining these skills is often the key to a (part of the) scene you’re in, whether it’s by running and jumping away from some kind of evil or getting past an environmental obstacle with the help of some physics.
As with the first game, getting the timing right on jumps can be tricky – which is partly because the camera zooms in and out for dramatic effect but also because Mono wasn’t designed for agility and precision platforming, and neither were the controls. This can lead to some frustrating deaths and restarts, and while deaths and restarts are part of the game as you try and figure out how to move forward, it’s harder to accept when you know exactly what to do and the game isn’t cooperating.
Most of the puzzles aren’t difficult, so you’ll likely get through the game in about four to five hours if you have experience with the first Little Nightmares. The sequel is definitely longer and larger, but also uses familiar themes and mechanics. That includes stuff that you don’t normally associate with horror, but might terrify kids like Six and Mono – like a teacher, or a visit to the doctor. Tarsier takes these seemingly mundane things and turns them into gruesome scenes, with plenty of diversity between the different chapters in terms of visual themes.
What helps in that regard is that Little Nightmares II is gorgeous to look at, with tons of attention to detail and a great deal of atmosphere. Some of that is because of the camera work mentioned before, where zooming out gives players a good sense of how small Mono is in the big scary world that’s out there. The atmosphere is further enhanced by a great soundtrack that invites players to play this with a pair of headphones or through a good surround system. In some puzzles, this will even help you – as you need to carefully listen before you move.
Although stealth is still the go-to tactic in Little Nightmares II, and running away is still the solution to a lot of problems, Mono can also defend himself a little bit. In certain levels, you’ll find weapons, and while combat is intentionally clunky (Mono is too small to wield them properly) this does add a new dynamic to the game – often with you using a weapon only to buy time as you try to get away or through to the next section.
Little Nightmares II doesn’t do things differently than the first game did by any great extent, but it’s a polished sequel with more content than the first game had. If you enjoyed that one, then this is a safe bet. My only gripe is that, after four years, I would have expected something more to help push the series forward.