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Gaming

Nintendo Switch: Little Nightmares II review

Back in 2017, a horror platformer was published by Namco Bandai — Little Nightmares — a creepy and unsettling experience due to its impressive designs, haunting music, and more. Four years later, the sequel Little Nightmares II has finally arrived. Is it good?

A perilous wander

Much like the original game, Little Nightmares II follows a mysterious kid through a dangerous, heartless environment. In this case, it’s a young boy named Mono as he seemingly tries to find some escape from the hellish landscape of the woods and Pale City. Along the way, he encounters Six, the protagonist of the original, and the two work together to find some way out of their location.

The story is vague, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps from examining the environment and its various entities. The game is perhaps even vaguer than the original, which was about trying to escape, while this is more about wandering from place-to-place, encountering trouble along the way. It is very reminiscent of Inside and Limbo in that way, which can be good or bad depending on how one enjoys their environment-telling stories.

What there is to experience in the Little Nightmares II is incredible. Every set piece and location always feels just different enough to keep one invested and keep the experience fresh. It’s hard to tell where something will go and what will play out, always keeping you on your toes, especially in the second and fourth chapters. The comradery between Mono and Six is great, and you can genuinely feel their connection or their individual thoughts in their actions. The ending itself hits almost as strongly as the original’s did, but in a different and heavy way.

Little Nightmares II

Murky, eerie world

Little Nightmares II is a beautiful, off-putting game in the best of ways. It’s environments and locations are lush with detail and simplicity, painting a diseased, hellscape of a world. There’s so much that can be read with the careful placement and details of every item, hinting at what has come and what’s been left behind. The monsters are perfectly disgusting and uncomfortable to look at, perhaps even surpassing the original’s designs. The visual design is outstanding, putting in the right amount of gross detail that brings the experience together.

With that in mind, the graphics do take a bit of a hit on the Nintendo Switch. Visuals are much more murky and smudged over, making things not as clear and crisp as other versions. The same extends with the visual details and some textures. However, the scaling back works rather well given the game’s art direction. A murky, blurrier pullback fits a world as murky and visually unpleasant as the game presents.

The audio is just pitch perfect as well. Everything sounds so right, but all too wrong. The stretching of a monster’s neck, the scuttling of fingers against tile, the static of old television sets. Everything works incredibly and helps maintain this sense of dread within you. The soundtrack is also very good, piping up at the right moments to twist that tension in you and score the scene perfectly. The commercial jingles towards the end were especially nice.

Puzzle and smash away

Like with its predecessor, Little Nightmares II is filled with puzzles, sneaking, and lots of running away from horrible nasties looking to kill you. The sneaking and running aspect works just as well as the original did, even feeling a tad more forgiving with how an enemy can spot or sense you. There are minor improvements to make things better, like your character locking into a narrow pathway so you don’t as easily slip off of it as in the original. Controls and button layout on the Switch is very comfortable, with the exception of the flashlight. It could have benefited from having both regular and reverse control using the right stick, since it can be a pain to lock on to certain things, especially in the heat of the moment.

A screenshot from LMII

The puzzle element is possibly even stronger than the original. Every chapter has a good amount of situations that require a little brainwork, whether it be moving things into the right place or putting together the proper sequence of items that open a pathway forward. Nothing is ever too tasking or frustrating, and a lot of moments feel rewarding to figure out, the chess puzzle being a great example.

The newest edition to the gameplay is combat, an interesting, if not questionable addition. During the course of the game, you’ve come across something like a branch, a mallet, or even an axe; which you can use to smash open a door or fight off some enemies. It’s a nifty mechanic that can add to the tension to a lot of scenes and it works well enough. However, like in the previous game, judging distance can be difficult, and it’s not always clear whether or not you are close enough to hit someone, especially at an angle. It can be very frustrating, especially in an enemy gauntlet.

Frustration nightmares

For all the good that is built up in the game itself, Little Nightmares II is not without some issues that can make some moments irritating. A lot of it stems from the difficulty. This is a very hard game, one that relies on a lot of memorization and sometimes luck to get through. There’s often no way you can tell what will come at you next, leading to death very frequently. The checkpoint system is usually extremely forgiving and load times are massively improved for the Switch port, but the tough difficulty is where a lot of the problems start to appear.

There is an occasional lack of polish or unresponsiveness that make this even harder at times than it should. The grabbing onto ledges or your partner often feels hit or miss. I could be jumping at a window sill and it won’t register, even though it’s clear it should. There’s been plenty of life or death moments in the game where you can jump to a partner or onto a wall, but you either miss or you cling on, but you don’t really move afterwards. It really kills some moments in the game where you no longer feel tense, but just angry at the game for screwing up.

There’s also a few minor things such as the occasional glitch that requires you restart. A big one was in the hospital where I needed Six to open the door for me, but even though I could see her and did the right action, she wouldn’t move. Sometimes a certain mechanic is not taught or mentioned, like the slide, which can cause problems. Judging distance and depth still remains an issue in some scenarios, especially when the camera refuses to zoom in for a better look at your location.

A screenshot from LMII

Dangerous to go together

Now, what doesn’t cause frustration is the partner system; the true heart of Little Nightmares II. For a lot of the experience, Mono will always be working with someone to solve puzzles, cross gaps, and even hold hands to help guide the AI partner. However, despite the impression that this may cause frustrations, having another person around that you have to look out for, it really doesn’t.

The partner’s AI and the way the game handles them never causes problems for the player. Six is rarely, if ever in any danger. The enemies will usually target you or your partner will rush ahead of any threat in the chase sequences. The character will usually run to any place where you need a boost depending on how close you are, so there’s rarely a need to lead them anywhere. Outside of one glitch where I had to restart a checkpoint, the AI was always responsive and helpful.

Is it good?

Little Nightmares II is a worthy follow-up, capturing the horror, madness, and the delightfully disgusting aspects of the original, possibly going beyond it. It suffers in a few areas that need some polish, but the wild ride it puts our protagonists on is worth it. It’s production is next to none, even on the Switch, providing tons of scares and chases to get caught up in. This is the first big hit of the year and if you’re even the slightest fan of horror, you owe it to yourself to give this a shot.

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