Storytelling takes many forms, and we’ve seen countless interpretations in games so far. Silent storytelling is one of the hardest to accomplish properly, giving the audience just enough information to convey not only world building, but character intent. Little Nightmares 2 has has one of the most immersive silent stories I’ve played in a very long time, blending dismal environments with sudden urgency in order to create a tense atmosphere that speaks for itself. In terms of emotion, Little Nightmares 2 evokes much without so much as speaking a word.
In my experience, horror games have always been a very hit or miss subject. Load a game with nothing scares and it only becomes stressful and tiring quickly. A game with a tense environment and nothing more can get boring and wordy, especially if the game relies on exposition. Little Nightmares 2 takes the best of what other similar games have done and expands on it with aplomb. The environments in Little Nightmares 2 are nothing short of beautiful, being able to play at max graphics is honestly the way to go. The game is done such justice by the genuine fear these environments convey. Being lost in the forest, adrift at sea, sneaking in a post apocalyptic city: all of these and more are just harrowing to think about. The settings alone convey enough emotion, but the way in which they’re utilized show that there was a lot of thought in each one. As you’re running through the forest, using tree branches to disarm traps and having to hold your breath to sneak under murky water are things that can be mundane in an action game, but require genuine thought and execution in Little Nightmares 2. What has been eating at me the most is the city, which is a completely surreal experience. Walking through empty streets with buildings on the verge of collapse and having to see the clothes of people who up and disappeared in a variety of situations, even right inside their homes is just plain scary. This environment does an incredible job of being scary without having to outright scare you, the anticipatory fear that something can come out at any time mixed with the silence of what should be a bustling city makes me want to hide in a corner just because I walked around a bit.
The gameplay of Little Nightmares 2 is generally minor puzzles centered around avoiding enemies and using the environment. While there’s the classic sprint, jump, duck etc; there is a new mechanic that allows the player to traverse environments that would be otherwise inaccessible. A little friend named Six is found very early in the game, and assists the player with things like reaching high up items and crossing large gaps. While Six brings some gameplay features to the table, with it comes a sense of camaraderie. While the game is scary, it is suddenly a lot more manageable with a friend. A very nice touch is that you can hold down the right trigger to walk while holding hands. Little touches like this make Six a very welcome addition, and help establish a less lonely world. By no means is the world entirely empty, horrifying adults and morally deficient children still wander the environments and pose a constant threat both actively and passively, setting traps and outright chasing you, but Six is a beam of hope that is reason enough to keep going. Speaking on the adults for a moment, these are some genuinely terrifying designs. The first one you encounter is already deranged enough, making meat puppets from hunted people in the forest, and setting them up like dolls in his house. Seeing his carnage first-hand and then having to hear him walk around from afar is a crazy amount of buildup, and once he starts chasing you it’s only worse. As the first real enemy, it wasn’t insanely challenging to get past him. By using cover and sneaking around, it’s very easy to get away. That, and there’s thankfully no penalty for dying. Even with Six giving me small clues as for how to advance, I got blasted more times than I could count, honestly.
Overall, Little Nightmares 2 does so much right and only serves to expand an already scary world with fresh ideas and execution. Just by playing naturally you learn bits and pieces of the world around you, and none of it is ham-fisted. Of course it’s scary, but the only immediate urgency outside of being chased is what you feel the environment is about to do to you. Being able to make a player feel so much without doing much at all is a feat in itself, and I can honestly recommend Little Nightmares 2 to adventure game players even if they don’t like horror. The exploration and environmental storytelling alone are enough to scratch that itch, and narrowly escaping death always feels incredibly rewarding.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC (Steam)