Remember the puzzle platformer? Yeah, they still exist here and there, but back during the Golden Age of Indie Games around the turn of the 2010s decade they were all over the place. Like the buffalo, they were gradually hunted to near-extinction, but Kickstarter and a steadily-renewed interest in the genre has helped their numbers recover. One great example of the genre released to critical acclaim lately was 2017’s Little Nightmares, so it’s not surprising that it’s got a sequel in Little Nightmares II.
We follow Mono, a fashionable lad with a bag on his head who’s been having some weird dreams lately. This leads him to make his way through the Pale City, a less-than-inviting urban landscape where he hopes to find some answers to the questions those dreams have been asking. Along the way, he’ll come across the original game’s protagonist and they’ll team up, doing their best to survive in a world that would very much like to eat them up. Nothing ominous about that, right?
What we’ve got here, as mentioned, is a puzzle platformer! You’re generally presented with a destination and encouraged to work out how to get Mono over there without getting squished. Our hero’s able to run, jump and grab stuff, so your selection of verbs is concise enough that thinking through what’s going on tends to be enough to get you through. The focus here is more on the creepy undercurrents than brainteasers, but that prevents long, complex puzzles from detracting from the horror. Surely we all got a little less than afraid of the early Resident Evil games after spending hours trying to find card-suit-themed keys, right?
Little Nightmares II’s defining quality is that it’s very much like the original game. Duh, you say, and look at me expecting an explanation, but really that speaks for itself – this is one of those sequels that doesn’t really do much that its predecessor didn’t. Mono’s able to drag stuff around and smack obstacles and enemies with it in a way Six wasn’t able to back when she was the protagonist and, likewise, you’ve got Six herself with you for much of the game and she’s able to provide help here and there.
Neither of these changes amount to a significant gameplay shift, though. I don’t want to say this could have been an expansion, but it probably could have been an expansion.
That’s not to say it’s not worth playing. That classic spooky feel that the original Little Nightmares did so well is very present and accounted for here. There’s an omnipresent sense of dread as you creep through dark halls, search for the way forward and flee from massive mutated adversaries. It’s a little hard to say what significant additions could have been made that wouldn’t throw off the original’s overwhelming atmosphere, in fact.
Having a partner around makes things feel a little bit more like, say, the PS2 classic Ico, but this is still Little Nightmares through and through. That goes double for the ending, which is, well…fans should probably take the time to look this one over, let’s go with that.
Little Nightmares II retains the original game’s spooky pseudo-Claymation style look as well as most of its gameplay. That’s definitely easier to praise than the lack of innovation from an interactivity perspective. This game looks great and runs just fine on pretty much any platform you’d care to run it on. There’s not a lot to complain about from a technical perspective.
As with the first, Little Nightmares II is a fairly short game that can be experienced in about a weekend. You might want to keep that in mind when considering a purchase, but those considerations can be kept to a minimum if you played and enjoyed the original. This sequel continues doing everything the original did well. At the same time, it doesn’t really expand on the formula all that much, but after the third or fourth heart-pounding chase sequence, you might be glad that Bandai Namco continued to focus on what works.