One of the surprise hits of 2017, Little Nightmares combined a wonderfully creepy aesthetic with some great puzzle platforming gameplay. Exploring the dank and rainy environments as the enigmatic Six offered a very different take on the silent protagonist, and even after playing through the game and its DLC expansions, Six remained a mysterious figure with numerous fan theories and ideas surrounding her place in the world. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the game, though, was the utterly grotesque enemies that populated the terrifying locations, with their uncannily plasticine like features and monstrous appetites.
Having thoroughly enjoyed my harrowing time with the first game, I eagerly booted up a preview build of Little Nightmares II, throwing myself in to tentatively explore the first two levels.
The most immediate change is that you are not playing as Six; rather than the conspicuous bright yellow coat you instead control a boy with a bag on his head. This character, revealed to be named Mono in pre-release interviews, still handles similarly to Six, so returning players will feel at home sneaking, running, and jumping around the environments. Alongside exploring Mono’s surroundings, you can once again pick up objects to use as counterweights or to throw at buttons and switches out of your reach. Playing with a controller, everything remains responsive and smooth, with deaths always feeling fair (although to be honest, I was sometimes deliberately killing Mono out of morbid curiosity for what would happen).
Little Nightmares II continues the aesthetic and ambience of the first game, but offers more polish and shine. The opening forest level is beautiful – albeit in a disturbingly threatening way – and I enjoyed just interacting with the environment, whether through hiding in bushes or playing with the piles of leaves on the ground. The innocent joys of this opening quickly gave way to a far more dangerous encounter with the first of the game’s grotesque monsters.
Quite early on in the preview build you come across a lonely girl playing with a music box. Once you release her from her prison-like confinement, she accompanies you on your journey and can actively help you by activating switches or catching you as you make otherwise impossible jumps. Holding the right trigger allows you to hold her hand as you run through the world and face its perils, a lovely touch that reminded me of the relationship between the characters in Ico. The early levels make good use of this cooperative dynamic by having a number of areas where the two characters must work together to progress – although you only directly control Mono.
One aspect that is very different to the original is the addition of combat. In various places you’ll find pipes or hammers that can be used to defeat smaller foes. The uncanny proportions of the world mean that these are oversized and cumbersome to use, so accurate timing is essential. These weapons can also be used to break down some doors and obstacles and their introduction adds a really nice level of empowerment – one that is of course swiftly removed once you face the larger inhabitants.
During my preview, I got to explore the opening forest and marshland before finding myself in a mysterious school with a whole new set of threats and enemies. Whilst I’m not going to go into any detail about the boss characters, suffice it to say that the school level features a new character with a look and ability set that is genuinely terrifying and looks set to become a real series highlight. Add in the potential for shocking developments, further revelations about Mono and his new companion’s identity, and the continuing mystery of why there are so many smashed televisions everywhere and you have all the ingredients for a fabulous sequel.
I’m more than looking forward to some sleepless nights exploring the full game when it releases across PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch and PC on February 11th. In the meantime, I heartily recommend you try out the demo that’s arriving on console today!