Supermassive Games’ ambitious multi-game Dark Pictures project may have been slowed for a while by the horrors of real life, but the delay doesn’t seem to have had any lasting effect on Little Hope, the second entry in the anthology series. Continuing in the same gameplay vein as Man of Medan (and Until Dawn before that), the second game transports players into a different setting and subgenre of horror, presenting you with an entirely new cast of characters to save or condemn depending on your choices. Having now played a demo chapter of the game, I can reveal that this entry is shaping up to eclipse its predecessor.
Dropping right into the middle of the story of Little Hope makes for a slightly odd first impression, as I had no prior knowledge of the new characters or the situation. Somewhat unintentionally, this lack of context only served to add to the air of mystery I could savour. The demo begins as two characters, student Andrew (played by film actor Will Poulter) and Professor John, find themselves in a derelict police station that looks and feels like it would fit right into the town of Silent Hill.
The trademark dialogue options and exploration mechanics return as expected and previous players will be able to jump straight into familiar territory, but it takes a while before a sense of what is happening develops. A sinister phone call to a disconnected landline swiftly transitions into an immersive vision of a 17th century witch trial and the scene is set for a spooky tale of doubles separated by centuries and a town cursed by the trauma inflicted on innocent women accused of satanic liaisons.
I’ve studied and written on this area, albeit with an English rather than American historical focus, and am hugely excited to see how this setting develops. It is a far more interesting theme for me than the nautical hauntings of Man of Medan and is a good indication of the ways in which the Dark Pictures Anthology series will appeal to fans of many different genres of horror.
As is to be expected given Supermassive’s pedigree, Little Hope looks and sounds fantastic. The dark and moody setting is perfect for developing a sense of dread and unease, whilst the motion capture and facial animations successfully maintain the cinematic feel of their games. The sound design is a real stand-out alongside the visuals, and this really is a game that should be experienced while wearing headphones – if you can bear the tension and potential scares.
The horror aspect is certainly present here, with several effective jump scares and a QTE climax involving a grotesque, waterlogged monster. I deliberately failed this final section on a second playthrough and was suitably grossed out by the graphic death scene that followed – the things I do in the name of games journalism.
All of this will, of course, sound familiar to players of Supermassive’s previous games. The continuity in mechanics does have some more negative aspects, however, as there is still no dialogue skip function to relieve some of the tedium of replaying the game. The demo was short enough that this wasn’t so bad, but attempting to uncover all of the endings in the full game will have the potential to get repetitive.
Little Hope is set to be released across PC, PS4 and Xbox One on October 30th, just in time for Halloween, and the demo was hugely effective in piquing my interest. I am now looking forward to finding out more about the traumatic history of the town of Little Hope and seeing who will survive… and what will be left of them.