I sit here – moments after finishing Little Nightmares 2 – and there’s a pit in my stomach. That feeling you get when a game finishes but you aren’t quite finished with it. Its treacherous world, enchanting visuals and truly captivating story held me in its grasp, unable to move.
This Nightmare was scary, occasionally quite complex and will stay with me for a long time. I don’t plan on waking up anytime soon.
Little Nightmares 2 Review
From the get-go, Little Nightmares 2 treats you to the subtle ways it plays with your perceptions as someone who played the first game. You start within a dreamlike state following a corridor to a door at the very end – it’s ominous and building, something that feels indescribably important. This is something Little Nightmares 2 does very well.
That “you just have to play it to understand it” feeling. Its music, the subtle rumbles of the controller, the way it angles your camera. These all felt very important to my perception of the game. There’s this duality at work in how Little Nightmares presents itself to you. The world feels organic with the subtle effects of the wind and the moody atmospheric lighting.
Levels almost feel like a diorama, an interpretation of something much scarier. That is, after all, what a nightmare is. A manifestation of guilt, trauma, fear. Little Nightmares 2 has this by the bucket full. You play the role of Mono this time around, a young boy with a bag on his head who finds himself in a rotting deteriorating forest inches away from the real horror.
The horror of Little Nightmares 2 is anticipatory. You aren’t dropped into the jump scare, you just consistently feel mere moments away from it. As a young nearly defenceless child, you must push forward slowly but assuredly, with confidence. That level of confidence spread to the design of the game itself, this time around.
Little Nightmares 2 is very willing to step into the weird and it thrives because of that. It initially falls in line with the original game with simplistic 2D puzzles (working as a nice refresh of mechanics) before you come across another child, one more trapped soul.
You exist in the same plane as the first game, obeying the same rules and then – suddenly – you have another child, a new way to interact with the world around you. There’s this trend in modern horror of showing you a very small snippet of a world and then punishing you for exploration by having a big creature or some fiend follow you until you hide.
Little Nightmares 2 is often more clever than this. With a flick of the analogue stick, you can look much further than the snippet in front of you. You can piece together the environment and then tackle it with thought. It’s more a puzzle game than outright horror and this is something it chimes into with smart moments of levity.
You and your friend work together by climbing hard to reach places, moving blocks at the right time and generally exploring the world. It pieces their character types together as they walk. Mono is confident and helpful and this is accentuated with a physical button to hold your friend’s hand.
Your partner, on the other hand, is timid and afraid and requires help to fully grow into their own. I felt a form of genuine palpable solidarity as their personalities grow and they learn how to manipulate certain puzzles. The puzzles can be dark and thoughtful or they can be rather straightforward.
Little Nightmares 2 plays with nihilistic absurd horror in almost fun ways to become rather hopeful. Mono might use a noose or a dead body to cross a gap. You might have to gleefully kill something to use its carcass to get through. It uses this crushing darkness to provide some light.
In this sense, its narrative simply wouldn’t work through the eyes of anyone else. This horror isn’t conceptualised as you or I might view it. These childlike eyes are oblivious to what they really mean. There’s something existentially scary about that – one of the many reasons Little Nightmares 2 lingers after you hit the credits.
You find this almost warm sense of comradery between the two main characters and it plays up to this well. When the two are together, they become a comfort blanket to the world. More importantly, when they’re apart, the darkness spreads and makes those scary moments even more frightening.
The frights are definitely here this time around with monstrous lumbering creatures, deadly sights and one of the spookiest corridors in recent memory. This being said, the focus on character felt through the main duo helps to almost empathise with the world.
It pulls the wool over your eyes and the horror comes from a much deeper place, that of the TV and its vile effects on the world.
Both the main narrative and main gameplay are entrenched in puzzle solving. Progression both physically and narratively is locked behind things you have to figure out. The puzzles of Little Nightmares 2 fit into this nice place of not being hard enough to frustrate but often being just obtuse enough to figure it out.
Solutions aren’t immediately apparent but never feel unsolvable. This is a good way of describing the world itself. It can be tough and obtuse but it leaves just that little sliver of hope. If you take a step back and think about it, you can overcome it.
Admittedly, overcoming Little Nightmares 2 was made a bit harder than it should have been with some shaky controls at points. For the majority of the game, the controls are fine and feel just how they should when running from a monster or hiding in a small spot.
This being said, swinging and picking up items could have been made a bit smoother. Sometimes, items would get caught or a swing would miss the target narrowly when straight on. This reinforces how thoroughly the central systems rely on a form of trial and error in Little Nightmares 2.
You are supposed to die in Little Nightmares 2. That is part of how you learn. The actions of enemies are choreographed but that choreography is not always obvious. People can be irrational, people can be hard and people can sometimes make no sense. Little Nightmares 2 is violently aware of this.
Trial and error in games is often a hit or miss thing but, for me, it hit here. It doesn’t feel like a throwaway part of the design, it feels intentional. The willingness to let you die clues you into how truly treacherous the world is. The horror comes from this uncertainty, the world’s willingness to feel entirely alien.
It sucks you in and transports you directly to the uncanny valley. The fever-dream aesthetic of Little Nightmares is as scary as it is enchanting. There’s a subtle prettiness to its design. The way the light glistens off the side of a noose, the way a face distorts into something monstrous.
Every second in-game could be taken from a haunting stop motion animation. This aesthetic is only made even more poignant with its soundtrack. Where the first games OST was brooding, dark and covered in this obnoxious humming of the maw, Little Nightmares 2 grabs the elegant and pretty and distorts it.
Every song has something light underneath it as the waves of darkness flow over you.
The music of Little Nightmares 2 is truly wonderful and works well as part of the overall experience. The tracks don’t just feel like good ominous music – they work as part of the game itself.
They feel deliberate and hauntingly powerful at points. It grows and distorts, it takes the sad nostalgic prettiness of “togetherness 1” and turns it into a genuinely scary listen in “disposable entertainment”.
There’s a scene early on that enunciates just what works so well about Little Nightmares 2. In a room, a creature is playing the piano but regularly stops to jot down notes on the melody. You have to move when they’re playing to figure out the puzzle scattered around them.
Once you’ve got through the adrenaline of sneaking around her, you actually listen and really it’s a surprisingly beautiful piece with overwhelming darkness and pain below it. The scene in front of you is dark but melodic, it’s scary yet oddly beautiful.
You might hang around a little longer than you need to just to take it in. As you listen and process what you’re thinking, you realise you’ve changed the way you see her. I went from calling her a monster at the start of this paragraph to empathising with the woman behind the music.
She jots down notes, she’s fallible, almost human. That’s when she turns around and kills you with one bite. Like a moth enchanted by a pretty flame, Little Nightmares 2 draws you in with its fiery passion but leaves you with sweaty palms and adrenaline running through your heart wandering “what just happened?” I still don’t know how to answer this question.
- Fantastic Soundtrack.
- Haunting visuals.
- Great Story.
- Just very spooky.
- Iffy controls at points.
- Relies on trial and error but relies on it well.