When the credits rolled on Tarsier Studios’ Little Nightmares II, I had to take a moment to think about the journey I just experienced. My adventure throughout the depths of Pale City introduced me to all kinds of horrors — both physical and psychological. There was no knowing what to expect with each location that I explored, with the atmosphere always feeling unsafe. After falling in love with the first Little Nightmares in 2017, Little Nightmares II delivers an enriching narrative and is a sequel that is both bigger and better in nearly every possible way.
Two heroes for Little Nightmares II
Little Nightmares II follows the journey of Mono, a young boy who finds himself trapped in a disturbing environment. He is also accompanied by Six, the protagonist from the first game, as they attempt to unravel the secrets of this grim world. The first adventure was very much an isolated experience, making traversal even more terrifying. The addition of a second character doesn’t completely remove that sense of unease, but it instead makes exploration and puzzle-solving more interesting as a result. However, some instances require you to abandon your newfound companion, bringing back the isolated feel of the first game.
The story for the most part is told through the environment itself. There are very few instances where a cutscene is required to explain what’s going on. Most of the adventure will be spent absorbing the details of the surrounding area, in an attempt to understand the stories that Pale City is trying to tell. Each location is distinctive, offering new challenges and story beats that set them apart from one another. Mono’s relationship with Six is explored throughout the journey as well, with them slowly building trust as time goes on. They can even hold one another’s hand as they brave the nightmares together.
Although Six takes on a side role, she is by no means useless. This is mostly in part to her incredible AI. When entering a new area, Six is usually the first to spot something unusual. If something takes her interest, she’ll signal Mono to come and take a look. Occasionally, she will boost Mono up onto a normally inaccessible platform. This then presents you with the opportunity to find a way to get Six across to the other side. Sometimes her AI can be a little wonky, but it’s nothing major.
Hide and seek
The world of Pale City is terrifying, with disturbing monsters and dark lighting effects. There will be moments where you are required to hide from the game’s titular nightmares. These sections can be described as a game of hide and seek. Each encounter will be vastly different from the last, so using the environment to your advantage is a must. Mono and Six will be hiding under tables, behind various household objects, and disturbing items of interest. Failing these sections results in something truly terrifying, which I will not spoil because its best experienced for yourself. Sometimes you’ll find yourself being pursued as well, where Mono and Six must run, climb, and jump their way through all kinds of situations.
These encounters are even more frightening thanks to the audio design and music. Little Nightmares II uses ambience to try to garner a reaction from the player. Exploring a dark corridor can be nerve-racking as you hear strange noises coming from the distance. The main theme also does an excellent job of representing the sense of fear and the horrors scattered throughout Pale City. Playing the game with headphones was wonderful, with me constantly being on edge — especially during the stealth sections. There are also moments where Mono has to engage in combat, which is honestly hit or miss in terms of its effectiveness.
Face the nightmares
Obviously, Mono and Six are small beings in a larger world, so it would naturally be difficult to wield a weapon properly. This is demonstrated through the animation of picking an axe or pipe up. Mono is clearly struggling to hold the item in question, so it takes a while to land an attack. This becomes more of an annoyance in later sections, with it feeling like a chore. I found that the hit boxes felt a little bit off at times, which resulted in me being killed for no particular reason. Despite all this, some of these moments were well-crafted and provided a solid change of pace compared to the rest of the game.
If I were to describe the visual style of Little Nightmares II, I’d compare it to films such as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas or Laika’s Coraline. The level design reminds me of both of these movies, with a similar use of colors and aesthetic. Six’s yellow raincoat reminded me of Coraline in particular, as both characters have a similar appearance. Little Nightmares II also manages to combine the grotesque nature of the world with this beautiful art style. It draws a fine line between disgusting and gorgeous, and I found it to be quite mesmerizing.
From time to time, a few visual bugs appear, such as the screen being slightly distorted or a little bit of pop in. However, this doesn’t detract from the overall experience and may only effect the Nintendo Switch version. There was more significantly one instance where the game crashed and wouldn’t let me pick up again where I’d left off, so I had to restart the chapter in order to continue.
Little Nightmares II delivers
Little Nightmares II is one of those “experience” kind of games. It is similar to titles such as Journey and Abzu, where it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Little Nightmares II revels in its use of compelling level design to tell a deep and saddening tale of discovery. The stealth sections in particular provided some truly intense moments, with the world of Pale City always providing a constant, creepy atmosphere. My time spent exploring dark hallways, brooding corridors, and creepy streets will be something I’ll always remember.
A review code was provided by the publisher.