After playing what looks like the opening half-hour or so of Little Nightmares 2 I can confirm it is pleasingly dark and just plain weird - as you might hope from the sequel to a game that saw you trying to escape twisted situations like being eaten alive by gluttonously obese, slug-like restaurant-goers. That said, I’m not entirely sure this has captured the grotesquely unsettling weirdness that made the first game so good just yet. But then it’s hard to tell from such a small section of gameplay. The section I played is definitely very wrong though, in a good way, so it’s heading in the right direction.
I see dead people
Like the last game, this is a semi-2D puzzle horror game full of horrible deaths, physical puzzles and creepy weirdness. Except this time Six, the yellow raincoat wearing star of the last game is a companion now to a new paper bag wearing hero called Mono. (Allegedly, at least, which we’ll get to.) Like Six, Mono is a mystery, simply appearing in a dark, overcast forest. And there’s something definitely wrong about the place. Slimy matter, that might have been a person once, is piled up here and there. Some sort of rope trap hangs from a tree; arms and legs poking out between bound layers of sacking holding everything in as flies buzz around. There are shoes everywhere, too. More shoes than the visible bodies can account for.
Those shoes come in handy at least to set off another rope trap without ending up in it. As with its predecessor, there’s a ‘die to find out what to do’ style of puzzle-solving here. Sometimes you can’t see a danger until it kills you, or understand the moving parts you have to solve a problem, without letting it claim you at least once. Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes you have to poke things a bit and hope it doesn’t hurt too much. It’s all very physical - there are boxes to drag and drawers to pull out to help you reach new areas for example. One section involves poking bear traps with sticks, or throwing pine cones at them, to set them off and clear a path. And, honestly, sometimes it’s fun just to see what happens. (If you’ve not played the previous game but have played Limbo, there’s a lot of similarities.)
Cabin in the woods
The real creeps start when Mono reaches the shack in the forest. Going in through the kitchen has serious Maw vibes (the strange boat-like city the first game was set in). There’s a kitchen festooned with meaty matter and filth, and definitely something else in the house. It’s also where you find Six. Possibly. Without her trademark raincoat, it’s hard to tell and it’s not the first time the series has deceived you to a character's identity.
Meeting Maybe-Six steps things up a bit by introducing some light teamwork and the monster who lives in this place. He’s a sack wearing, gun-toting hunter of some sort who first appears wetly ripping the skin from some unidentifiable animal. He also seems to be trying to make some friends by stitching together parts, with a badly stuffed family sat around a table and a dusty, poorly stitched grandmother slumped in the attic. As for the teamwork side of things, while this isn’t a co-op game, you can work with Six as a companion to solve simple puzzles. Things like moving heavy boxes or working winches to reach suspended keys to escape. There's also a nice touch where the interact button will hold her hand if you want a little emotional support.
It all leads to a tense escape from the hunter, dodging shotgun blasts by hiding behind boxes. You also have to avoid his searching torchlight in long grass, or by putting your head under the surface of a thick, sludgy brown stream. It may not be water. The final teaser sting for the demo sees the children finalizing their escape by floating across the water on an old door - only to see the distorted and deformed tower blocks of a strange city loom out of the fog.
As 30-minute tasters go it’s a solid start but I really hope what comes next leans more into the twisted Ghibli vibe of the first game, over the more obvious ‘serial killer in the woods’ set-up of the intro. The first game crafted a deeply unsettling vibe from fairly ordinary locations gone wrong that had far more impact because it avoided immediately obvious horror tropes. The half-melted mounds of fat that were the cleaver-wielding chefs, or the impossibly long arms and fingers of the Janitor, blinded by his own skin slipping loose from his skull, were amazing encounters because they were unexpected. While the opening here is still dark and interesting, it doesn’t quite feel as imaginative. But it is only the first 30-ish minutes though so there’s plenty of time for things to get nasty which, in the best possible way, I hope they do.