There is, without a doubt, no presence of dreams in the Little Nightmares horror game franchise.
“Little Nightmares 2,” the sequel to “Little Nightmares,” follows the protagonist Mono, a boy who wears a bag over his head in a cute fashion. Mono takes the place of Six, the protagonist in the original game. Six is now our yellow jacket-wearing companion who helps us traverse the world.
The adorable cast contrasts greatly to the dark grim inescapable landscape that glares down on them as they complete levels. Tarsier Studios does a great job of making players feel like they are powerless, a staple element to any horror game. A series of creepy and unsettling monsters chase Mono and Six, who runs painfully slow. I often had to repeat levels and would get just out of the enemy’s reach only to be snatched right before escaping.
One frustrating element was the lack of a save system. The game relied on the auto-save function, resulting in several frustrating reloads. Many times I would have to leave the game, hoping it would save the progress I made only to come back to it being reset to the beginning of a sequence. However, these faults were worth it for the pure adrenaline rush I felt completing every level.
During the game, the player is put into high-pressure situations that require fast reflexes and quick decision-making skills.
The most stand-out location is the haunted hospital with its petrified mannequins. Using a flashlight, you have to point at the mannequins to keep them from chasing you through an otherwise unlit room. This definitely left me on the edge of my seat — where I had to decide whether it was best to point my flashlight and risk the mannequins getting too close or make a run for it and pray they don’t catch-up. This left me helpless at some points when my flashlight would point in the opposite direction I pointed it.
“Little Nightmares 2” falls short in some of its gameplay mechanics. The side-scrolling combat system was very tricky, especially when enemies would appear in front or behind the player as opposed to left or right. My swings would frequently miss enemies, which led me to some fits of rage as the level had to restart for the umpteenth time. Sometimes a rope you have to jump onto seems perpendicular to Mono, but when you try to reach it, you’ll miss and fall from the platform.
Outside of mechanics, the story is veiled and leaves interpretation up to the players. Without playing the original, the ending of “Little Nightmares 2” feels largely confusing and bitter, leaving players with a slap on the face and a myriad of questions. I will not spoil the ending for anyone wanting to play, but it is an absolute twist.
A recurring symbol in the game is the presence of TVs and ever-looming bright tower lights. Near the end of “LN2,” Mono has to control the TVs with a remote in order to travel through them. Almost human zombie creatures are seen glued to the TV’s, ignoring Mono as he passes by them. One could draw the correlation that the signal tower controls the people in this world, turning them into monsters. This brainwashing is bitterly symbolic of how the media influences society. When you turn off a TV, the zombies will run to a different TV like moths to a flame. This led me to discover these zombies are nothing but null shells, corpses for the signal tower to control.
Another recurring symbol is the watchful eye, decorating the walls, doors and floors of every level. A distinctive characteristic is the porcelain children in the school, who only draw the eye when they use chalk, unlike real school-children, who draw numbers or characters.
Theorists like The Gaming Beaver on YouTube have speculated that this eye is what society deems is right. The way we should act and live out our lives. This eye is a reminder that the signal tower watches and sees everything.
Mono and Six are the only portrayed characters who aren’t consumed by the signal tower. Even though the porcelain kids are children like Mono and Six, they were still consumed by the tower, which leads me to believe Mono and Six were children able to escape the “eye.” But ultimately, this is all just speculation. I hope that more information will be provided in downloadable content or another game.
Compared to the setting on a ship that felt largely inspired by spirited away in the original game, the setting in “LN2” feels more realistic and feeds the player’s sense of abandonment.
My favorite part of the game was the final level, where I had to escape a loop of doorways with no apparent solution. When I finally learned the key to escaping, it was an “Aha!” moment. In addition, the striking visuals and distinct pink light caused me to put down the controller and stare at the beautiful setting for minutes at a time while reminiscing in the eerily comforting music.
Despite its downfalls, “Little Nightmares 2” is an excellent sequel that outdoes the original in artistic style and unique game-mechanics.
I am looking forward to the next edition of this franchise,
Because you can always wake up from a nightmare.
Overall rating: 8/10.
Lizzy Rager is a freelance writer for The Express. Follow her at lizzy_rager on Instagram.