There’s a gnawing unease as you play Little Nightmares II, an uncertainty about every situation that it presents for you to explore. It’s much like its predecessor in that regard, continuing the story with new characters and new creepy stuff for you to endure.
The game follows on from Six’s escape from The Maw in the original game (um, spoilers?), and introduces a new diminutive protagonist in the form of Mono, a boy with a paper bag on his head. Together they have to traverse the Pale City, overcoming the decaying environments and the dangers before them.
Our demo started with the pair of them sat before a blank television screen amidst a group of headless mannequins sat in wheelchairs. The desaturated gloom lends everything a dense, oppressive atmosphere, and that’s before Mono and Six start to explore other parts of the Hospital level.
As you wander around, Mono takes the lead with Six lagging a few footsteps behind. It almost feels as though the fight, the drive to survive has left her since the original game, though she plays her part in giving Mono a boost to get up to and through higher up ledges. She can’t follow though, leaving Mono to face the fears of what’s to come on his own.
This place is full to the brim of mannequins and their parts, but they’re designed to look, not like the kind of mannequin you’d find in a clothes store window, but like prosthetic limbs. It’s those that have then been cobbled together into human form in various ways. Compared to the grotesque nature and odd proportions of the various characters in the first game, this is more about the chilling absence of anything human, of instilling automatonophobia.
You expect them to start moving and coming for you far before they actually do. As you drag a box along the floor, a hand detaches itself and starts to skitter along the floor toward you, arching back onto its wrist before launching itself and trying to grab on. It’s not the most capable foe, but there’s little you can do except take to the little islands of high ground you find and move quickly to dodge its attacks. It’s persistent though, and it comes to a head, if you will, when you find a hammer, able to grab onto it and swing as the hand comes at you again and again.
I’ll admit I gave it a few extra whacks even after it had stopped twitching. It’s good being able to fight back against the horrors.
There’s no hammers to be found when heading into a deeper, darker recess of the hospital. Mannequins in gowns are everywhere to be found, standing staring into the corners of hallways like they’ve been naughty, sitting in chairs, lying on beds. It’s nothing if not ominous, and the tension is ratcheted even further when one of them starts to move, juddering as a light flickers, lurching as it cuts out and rushing to grab Mono and end him.
You’ll have to pull out Mono’s flashlight to keep them at bay by shining it at them, and as a room might feature a dozen such mannequins, you’re left wondering if any of them can be trusted to just be dumb inanimate objects. On several occasions, they’ll come at you from multiple directions forcing you to move quickly and try to spin the light to keep them at bay.
It’s tense stuff, and you’re never quite sure whether you’re safe or not as you explore and look to solve the environmental puzzles. Fundamentally, the game feels very similar to the first in that regard, exploring the 3D levels from a side-on view and dealing with the fact that your small body can only do so much. Dragging boxes around is a special kind of torture, not just in terms of how cumbersome and slow it feels, but also for the horrible scraping sound it makes that you feel sure is going to attract things to your location.
Little Nightmares II looks set to pick up right where the original game and its DLC left off, filled with a thick atmosphere and creepy new situations to find yourself in. Would that it could come out this month in time for Halloween, we’ll have to wait a few months longer until 11th February 2021 to continue the horrible little adventure.