Developed By: Tarsier Studios
Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
When I saw the first little nightmare game in trailers back in 2017, I think to myself ‘if the fairytale Jack climbed the beanstalk – ends up finding himself at the bottom of a food chain in front of starving large-sized residents of the world, that’s a little nightmare alright’. Hence, I find myself not playing the first game. As time goes by, 2 years in fact after the first game’s, the second game presents a new trailer. Then I thought to myself ‘This looks more like Coraline stop-motion animation now’. After playing the game for a few hours, what I got is an actual dive into the likes of a Tim Burton Nightmare-ish world with a spin of Abe’s Odyssey survival platforming.
The game themes around suicidal tendencies so be warned before playing.
Storyline: Welcome to Silent Hill
Why did I name it that? is it as scary as a silent hill? nope. It’s just as silent throughout the game with bare minimal verbal exchanges as the game’s main focus is the art of miming its story through the body language of the main character, Six, and the residents of this world.
The story portrayed in this game is almost non-existent focusing mainly on a boy looking for a dreamy grainy door. At every turn, players have to keep making do with guesses or feel the story littered with grotesque bodies, scattered clothes everywhere, Oogie boogie residents, gloomy buildings, decor, and dimmed atmosphere. Yes, we know our main character as Mono however I came into the game with an empty mind and concluded to call him box-hat boy throughout as there are no known introductions made. Yet that is the beauty of this form of games akin to Limbo. This form of storytelling brings out stories through the mind of the audience, therefore the game is best to just leave it at that.
The story felt disconnect somehow – Unlike the first game focusing on one level inside a ship; this game spans around 5 chapters with different locations inhabited by its own unique residents and themes. This comes across as a variety to some but to me, it felt like I am just passing by segregated areas in different streets rather than compiling into an interconnected endless nightmare. The story only picks up at the last two chapters of the game where things start to collide back to Six and Mono which shouldn’t be the case as it makes the whole previous chapters seems irrelevant. An example of missed opportunity is to have all 4 chapters interconnected by the static transmission of the television and have residents from the previous chapter invading the current chapter in taking revenge on both Six and Mono. Resulting in them being forced to use previous methods to elude or fight the previous residents.
On a side note, the game did advertise itself as a humming transmission of a distant tower but visually besides the last chapter, previous chapters prior did not show any signs of that said humming distortion affecting the large residents.
Gameplay and Level Design
The environment level design is pretty much a spooky atmosphere yet each page shows me how grisly this game can be with a spooky fairytale ambience design. Playing as a small-sized vulnerable character under the food chain, my character has to hide under beds/boxes, run, jump, climb on top of giant shelves or bookcases, swinging on ropes, and manoeuvring around the decors of the environment in a linear 2.5D platformer fashion. In a gameplay sense, this static camera neither rarely turns into a 3D third-person over the shoulders nor follows me upwards as it mainly pans from left to right or aka trucking shot with a few variations in between depending on the situation.
All hands are on you – The game spans around 3-6 hours in gameplay comprising of five chapter locations. In each chapter, the game gently nudges me to move forward exploring my every surrounding aka ‘get the lay of the land’ by either jumping or climbing its well-made environments of grassy knolls as well as inside buildings with minimal backtracking. Each chapter comes with a distinct Oogie Boogie bosses of the chapter minding their own business in the background, each with their physical traits, movement, breathing patterns, owning different types of henchmen. Failure to sneak around the Oogie Boogie’s while avoiding hidden traps and its henchman will always result in a chase. Each chapter also gives some form of variation of solutions or tools such as a flashlight or the ability to submerge yourself underwater to avoid detection as well as mini combat where Mono is dragging and slamming hammer in a timely manner but most of these were only unique to that situation/stage alone and will less likely be carried forward to the next chapter, which is actually a shame actually. While some of these places are well lit with the atmospheric dimmed hue of green or blue lighting, others are just plain dark and foggy. Alongside with the game’s 2.5D mild static camera in a fixed angle, at times this spells disaster as I get stuck between objects from far away; forcing a restart and avoid exploring altogether to get collectibles. Moreover, unlike Six who is well dressed in lit bright yellow – Mono is plainly dressed in a grey jacket that blends in with the dark environment which is not helping.
The game gives way too much breathing space– If I do get caught by either a henchman or a boss, the game just shows them taking me into their arms and fades the screen to black followed by simply restarting back in the same room starting point instead of being placed punishingly back few blocks away. Funnily enough, the hatbox boy always restarts with him sitting in one corner sulking in a corner; it’s as if being caught merely gives a slap on the wrist and says ‘gotta put you back in one corner and keep crying’. I wish they would just eat me with a screeching stinger sound or use the environment more to just cut me in half or slam me down onto something. That is why the game’s fear mechanic only comes alive when I am being chased. Besides that everything else in gameplay feels less inspiring to give me more sense of scares and creeps.
The AI is pretty weak – The residents in this game both Oogie boogie bosses and henchman has only one thing in mind – I come and see, gives a relentless chase, and catch. I wish the bosses would too use more of their physical traits to trap me, make use of the environments to push me down, or throw their mini henchman at me. The way they are chasing you mostly boils down to just run in and grab. Forcing me to use multiple ways to solve a scenario rather than a linear style of solutions as there should be multiple ways for the residents to get to me too.
Bugs are pretty few but felt plentiful – From small bugs such as jittering character models, decors, floating or erratic objects movement. At times blue-walled and jittery mesh corridors as the camera pan sideways to follow me to the next area. All the way to big bad bugs such as losing control while aim flashlights, unable to jump to the next hatch (jittering Mono models as he hugs the wall), and as mentioned above, getting stuck in between decors from afar without any help from that social distanced camera. Eventually, these bugs alone are a few but gave me headaches and it doesn’t help the fact that it is still a linear game after all.
Music and Sounds
Like its story, the music in this game is mostly absent purely just to give a little edge onto players like myself hearing into the environment haunting rustles, music box, rewarding key ringings, and enemies heavy breathing alongside their own distinct footsteps as they are looking for me, my heartbeat, and the occasional slightly disturbing childlike creepy music. In addition to industrial and filtered violin-like sounds being played when the Oogie Boogie bosses give me chases like Tom and Jerry. I am actually fine with it and think it’s more of a subtle approach aka less is more catch to it- allowing me to feel the perfect timed adrenaline rush yet at the same time would not realize that there is actual music being played on the background. It is fine in the overall sounds department however getting killed in this game feels a wee bit lackluster as the song just fades away immediately.
What I Liked
- Graphics – Pretty spooky fairytale-like designs. Good use of dim lighting that brings out the atmosphere.
- Soundtrack – Subtle approach and well-timed music being played to add tension as well as rewarding moments. Bosses each have different breathing and footsteps to give a sense of alertness.
- More variation in gameplay, a few interesting enemy designs, environment puzzles, light combat mechanics, and boss fight solutions.
What I Wished Was Better
- The story only picks up at the end, making the previous chapters felt like filler episodes.
- Variations in solutions and mechanics picked up in previous chapters should be followed through a bit more instead of tossing it aside.
- In the main menu – Chapter selection should not have just start from the beginning and have multiple mini-chapters to relive different moments.
- There should be multiple ways to solve scenarios rather than a linear style approach.
- Otherworldly residents should be trickier/smarter in AI, making full use of their own environment they live in and laying more traps to catch me.
- Otherworldly residents and their henchmen should make use of their environment to kill me off or chew me down as they caught me with strong stinger sounds instead of fading out fast, giving me less breathing space.
- Storywise and Gameplay – The chapters should and can be more interconnected by the static transmission of the television and have residents from the previous chapter invading me, adding more depth into past mechanics and solutions.
- Bugs are a few but felt plenty in a linear game from jittery models, objects and the odd visual camera pans to game blocker bugs.
- Nitpicking wise with Six on my side- There should be a bit more mechanics in the tag team other than pushing larger objects, pulling me up, or pushing me up to higher heights. Something like distracting enemies and using more objects in the background to assist me more in solving the current environmental puzzles.
Verdict – The thrill of being chased
When I first saw the second game in the trailers, I think to myself ‘if this is an actual escape room, what would I get with my 30 dollars worth?’, the answer after playing this game is extreme cardio. The game isn’t as horrifying as it sounds and advertised. The main meat of the game is actually the suspenseful thrill of sneaking, hiding, and being chased by large-sized fanboys. Everything else felt like a good looking side dish in between with a bit more needful tweaks to make it a worthwhile experience. The game in itself has quite a number of locations, enemies, mechanics, and environmental solutions. As I play along, things will run up my mind like ‘is this object still pushable? pullable?, could I still climb on this rack, shelves, and that? and the most famous questions of all ‘Is this still a jumpable gap?‘ as previous solutions made earlier are not always applicable in the current chapter. In the end, the game forces me to experiment with the current surroundings alongside its objects, die a few times, and repeat again until I get what the game actually wants me to actually do.
After that, the game only picks up the slack at the very last two chapters of the game with a bit more unique gameplay, feasible storyline, and enjoyable boss fights. Overall I would recommend this a buy to the fans of the series out there but a hold on for any newcomers to come for at least a month or two until the game is able to sort its bugs out with new patches for a better experience. FYI as a platformer based game, this game’s original score is 8.5 to me but with those pesky bugs, it’s a…