Like the original 2017 game, the new Little Nightmares II feels very much like you’re playing your way through a uniquely rendered bout of sleep-terror, packed with disturbing, macabre monstrosities that chase you ever forward.
You control the movements of a child-like character named Mono who wears a paper grocery bag (and other discovered oversized caps) on his head. And you must navigate a king-sized “adult” world, solving environmental puzzles and finding ways to sneak past huge, hideous foes.
As the game begins, Mono finds himself ejected from the screen of an old tube-style TV set into the confines of a gloomy forest. He then locates a nearby farmhouse and frees a young girl named Six—the protagonist from the first Little Nightmares game. Together they make their way through a field full of leaf-covered bear traps and broken-bridge chasms. They eventually explore a horror-strewn city where the large, grotesquely twisted adult residents are transfixed by a strobing broadcast signal that’s endlessly emanating from their TVs.
The pair creeps through eerie and frightening buildings populated by nightmarish occupants. Each wince-worthy, trap-laden location and scary boss is worse than the last. And as Mono finds and sucks up bodiless souls (called glitches) and picks his way through the city, he begins to piece together the evil, ever-repeating secret behind this distorted and corrupted place.
Like an actual nightmare, there’s not much to point to as being truly positive here. That said, if you look at the story here from the right perspective, you could see the game’s attack on its overall antagonist—a tower that beams out a life-sucking TV signal to a spellbound and slowly deteriorating audience—as a caustic critique of the media that we consume.
Artistically, game is incredibly well rendered. Its styling—blending child-like fantasy imagery with otherworldly creepiness—is almost mesmerizing.
Despite the fact that this game has no dialogue and a T-rating, Little Nightmares II is still an incredibly disturbing game. It uses sound design and surrounding environmental details to an unsettling effect.
A large, deteriorating schoolhouse, for instance, is populated by cracked-porcelain bully children who swarm at you and must be dispatched by crushing their empty skulls with heavy objects. And there’s a horrifying teacher figure here, too, who patrols the classrooms and corridors with an elastically stretching neck. In a hospital location, a ceiling-crawling, grotesquely distorted doctor tugs and pulls at fleshy bodies and piecemeals his patients together with bits of metal and wood. One building is revealed to actually be a pulsating mass of flesh, organs and eyes.
Many of the scenes are designed to induce panic as Mono picks up heavy and oversized hammers and wrenches (and in one case a shotgun) and tries to smash doors, opposing swarms of foes, or disembodied crawling hands while a large, perusing enemy lumbers forward.
As you scramble from one small hiding place to another, various disturbing bosses shoot at you, grab at you, try to crush you and sometimes even gobble you up whole. Lightly covered traps feature sharp blades or teeth or bone-mashing heavy objects. Your character can die in all these moments, or from mistimed jumps. And at that point he regenerates at the beginning of the current scene.
There’s no graphic imagery in the above-mentioned deaths, but we do see a spattering of blood on walls, tables and floors in certain areas. There are depictions of suspended bags crammed with bodies, their limbs dangling out. Corpses in body bags and meat grinders on display. We see brains and organs in jars, as well as a dissected frog with its intestines hanging out. A character is lured into an incinerator and burned alive. Some people fall off an elevated platform in an apparent suicide.
There are a number of video games that proudly wear their “horror” label for all to see. But few do it as creatively as this one. Little Nightmares II steers clear of the bloody gore you might expect from a game like this, but it doubles down with frightening images and disturbingly twisted story details.
The gamemakers have successfully crafted a video game version of, well, a nightmarish world. It’s a world of panicked terrors and angry fever dream betrayals. And like any fever dream, if you enter here, you shouldn’t go expecting a happy ending.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.