You can’t ignore the LittleBigPlanet in Little Nightmares II. Tarsier Studios may have turned to horror with its eerie 2017 puzzle platformer Little Nightmares, but the Swedish studio’s body of work largely involves Sackboy, and he hangs over this gloomy PlayStation 4 sequel like an ominous shadow. Mono moves like Media Molecule’s mascot, grabbing onto objects in order to solve physics-based puzzles. At twice the length of its predecessor, this sinister sequel has plenty of memorable moments, but it’s let down by an overemphasis on trial and error.
Where the original was set entirely inside an otherworldly, underwater cocoon called The Maw, this follow-up attempts to explore more of the world outside it. You’ll play as a little boy called Mono, who awakens in a forest filled with discarded televisions. As with games like INSIDE, without any dialogue, the narrative is told through its imagery; it’s down to personal interpretation, and while essays will no doubt be written about its recurring themes, we saw it more as a montage of hellish locales, connected by a consistently bleak art direction.
It’s this artistry that’s without a doubt the title’s strongest asset. As you progress through the aforementioned woodland, you’ll find yourself pursued by a gamekeeper wearing an executioner’s mask, but he’s merely the warm-up for some of the truly wretched adversaries you’ll encounter along the way. These characters are brilliantly animated; the way they move is unsettling, and they’re a constant threat, making for some pulsating stealth-like encounters. Given your obvious disadvantages, the game lays some truly entertaining traps, which makes discarding them a treat.
While you never play as previous protagonist Six over the course of the seven hour campaign, she does return as a computer-controlled accomplice. This makes for some interesting puzzle encounters, where you must work together in order to solve problems; sometimes it’s as simple as asking her to boost you to unreachable places, other times you’ll need to split up in order to complete complementary tasks that help you discover new areas. The artificial intelligence is generally good, and unlike games such as The Last Guardian, you’ll never feel like you’re fighting the underlying code.
That said, the release relies far too heavily on trial and error, and it’s overwhelmingly finicky at times. While there are some really original puzzles here, it can feel rigid in how you solve them; there’s little room for exploration of its mechanics and physics, as you need to follow the exact set of steps that the designer wants you to in order to progress. This can be frustrating, as you’re ultimately limited by what Mono can and can’t do; you may see obvious solutions to your problem, but the game won’t allow you to explore them if they’re not the “correct” answer.
This irritation can extend to action sequences as well, whereby you’ll be chased or need to engage in combat. Mono can drag items like hammers and pipes and swing them at enemies, but if you miss it’s instant death, and so you’ll be forced to repeat skirmishes over and over until you get the timing down exactly as the game wants it. The overall running time may be double that of its predecessor, but we generally found that we had to replay each scene at least twice, because there was some kind of unpredictable trap waiting to trip us up.
To the game’s credit, restarts are rapid, but this can be an unpleasant game to interact with. The controls, which are purposefully slow and heavy, keep your fingers on the triggers a lot – and we experienced a lot of cramping in our hands, which hasn’t occurred to us since the old Monster Hunter on PlayStation Portable days. When you’re replaying segments over and over, the gameplay begins to gnaw away at you, and if not for the draw of the art direction, there were occasions where we wanted to stop playing. A native PlayStation 5 port is planned, and we’d encourage the developer not to implement the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers for that version.
But it’s not all bad: as alluded to, there are some truly heart-stopping moments here. A jaunt through a school cafeteria, where you cover your face with the cracked porcelain skull of a fellow student, really gets your pulse racing, while a series of teleportation puzzles involving televisions tax your grey matter in interesting ways. There are some really clever ideas on display, and when you pair this with the unsettling look of the world, you’ll want to see it through to its conclusion – even if sections undoubtedly grate.
Little Nightmares II is worth experiencing for its art direction alone, although its hand cramping controls can be an obstacle at times. The title relies far too heavily on trial and error, which frustrates, but many of its encounters will live with you long after the credits roll, and so it’s successful at creating a lasting impression. It’s a stiff and rigid release, but its puzzles are constantly reinventing themselves, and each frame draws you in with its surreal and unsettling imagery.
I was really let down by the demo. It reflected the irritating trial and error gameplay and really rigid design that you mentioned here. I love games of this kind with nightmarish imagery, but the LN2 demo just made me want to turn it off and replay Inside.
Was the first one better? Or basically this but older?
@Voltan This one expands on the ideas of the original and is longer and more varied. I'd say this one is "better", but obviously the first one was more original at the time.
To be honest the game is getting great reviews everywhere pushsqaure the lowest score so far wouldn't read to much into it, its one persons opinion, defo picking it up.
Dude on PureXbox gave it an 8. Either way, I'll play this eventually as I enjoyed the first one. With so many great games to play, I'll probably just slide this one down the list and wait for a good sale.
@get2sammyb ok, thanks
I heard good things about the first one and was wondering if it had the same problems. I actually have it in my PSN library (I think it was on PS+) but never played it.
This game is a 8 or 9 for me.word up son
@Ssimsim. I know right.every site is giving this game a high score.kind of remind me of a plague tales of innocence and mutant year zero.2 great games pushsquare gave both a 6.😴🤔😱.little nightmares 2 is easily a 8 from me.word up son
I loved Limbo, Inside and Little Nigthmares so I'm very keen on this trial & error mechanic as it is a pillar of these games.
Can't wait to play it!
To be fair I'm not sure what video game, at the end of the day, isn't basically just relying on a system of trial and error. But maybe I'll get a better sense of what is meant by that on Friday.
In any case, I loved this line: "A native PlayStation 5 port is planned, and we’d encourage the developer not to implement the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers for that version."
As much as this site goes on about the DualSense, surely this is bound to be a rare statement from PushSquare.
@zupertramp Well the game made my hands cramp without the adaptive triggers. The thought of playing it with the resistance enabled makes me shudder.
@get2sammyb Absolutely understand. As someone whose hands have seen better days, I totally get it. Probably why I got so much of a kick out of that line.
@get2sammyb Sounds like you are getting old.
You mean Trial and Terror AMIRITE
As was mentioned by @SilenceCZ the trial and error gameplay of the first didn’t bother me too much. The main draw for me on this one is the world, art and music. Nice review, thanks!
@BowTiesAreCool Missed opportunity on my part!
It currently has an 83 on metacritic, just in case anyone was wondering.
Friday can't come soon enough! Little Nightmares is favorite indie of this/last gen, so I'm incredibly excited to play Little Nightmares 2!
Have fun sleeping tonight as 'A Feeling for Meat' theme haunts your Little Nightmares - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0nmVPvdF7k&t=9s
Really enjoyed the first game despite never completing it but the demo for this sequel was such a fantastic experience that I'm definitely going to pick it up at some point.
As for the trial and error I got that from the demo but didant bother me at all.Looking forward to playing it!
I thought the first game was excellent, and the demo reminded me why I liked it so much. I'm definitely picking it up.
Playing it on Switch just now and its great. I think i'll prob give it a 9 from what ive played so far. LOVED the first one, kinda knew i'd adore this too. And C'mon, you missed the pun. . . ."Trial and (T)error" wouldve worked well.
Really enjoyed the demo, finally pushed me to buy the original game, and it hasn’t disappointed! The art style is just fantastic, and it’s a nice change of pace to play a horror game that’s easy to pick up and play. Definitely excited to nab this when the price drops a little bit.
@playstation1995 I've still not forgiven croft for giving metro exodus a 6 either!
6 is fair, I think, if it's as much like the first as it sounds. This kinda game, it really does depend on what you game for. Art direction is key for me (Okami is one of my GOATs) so a bit of trial and error is acceptable. The first one was so amazingly creepy.
@Dan_ozzzy189. I know right.metro is a 8 at best.word up son
@playstation1995 Plagues Tale and Mutant Zero are both excellent games. I liked the 1st nightmares. I'll probably wait till a sale to grab it.
@ObserverGamez. Yes they are.both great games.and little nightmares is excellent.word up son
Loved the first one, loved the demo of 2. Already ordered copy.
@get2sammyb to be honest I (mis)read it as that at first anyway! The game is already in my head.
I still need to play the first game (got it free thru Plus), but thanks for sharing your opinion on the sequel!
Hopefully this game becomes free just as fast, or at least 50% - 75% off by Black Friday 2021.
What an absolutely terrible review! I disagree top to bottom with everything you had to say about the game. In fact on the whole most of the reviews for this entire site have been bad and off lately. I mostly read them to laugh now. But back to this game. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having trial and error to solve puzzles, particularly when you have infinite continues and generous check points. Secondly there is nothing wrong with having only one way to solve a puzzle. Not every game has to be open world and have multiple ways to solve puzzles. It's part of the challenge. Back in the earlier generations games were far more difficult. It is clear you would not have been able to hack it back then. But by far the most laughable and ridiculous thing you said is you hands cramped. Are you friggin' kidding me? Seriously? That is just frankly embarrassing. Finally it is terrible you are steering people away from this game because it is actually a great game. We need far more games with this level if creativity and uniqueness, not less. Fortunately your opinion is in the vast minority. Like in statistics to get the actual truth you get rid of the outliers, the highest and lowest scores. This game is no less than an 8, but it's a 9 in my opinion, and most people who played it came to the same conclusion.
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