Nearly four years after Six’s plight stole our hearts, Little Nightmares II emerges from the fog to continue her story. However, this part of her journey is one she won’t embark on alone. A new friend named Mono stumbles into her path, and the two team up to explore the world beyond The Maw. New locales and environments with danger lurking around every corner makes for some edge of your seat, jump scaring entertainment. But, it’s also quite demanding.
Spoiler warning: This article contains potential Little Nightmares II spoilers.
One of the big selling points of Little Nightmares II is that Tarsier brings back Six as an AI companion. This is a feature I am extremely glad made it into the sequel. Having Six at your side makes it possible for Mono to reach new heights and solve new riddles. Six is a friend to help you pull or push obstacles. A partner to sneak around in the tall grass or wade through swamp waters. Six provides nudges toward clues, gives Mono boosts, and even responds when you call to her. She’s a pal and a confidant. Well, insomuch as two people who don’t really speak can share that sort of a relationship. It’s been nice having a friend for the end of the world. But at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, you need to be able to stand on your own two feet.
Which is why I am a little annoyed with the second major addition to Little Nightmares II. When I heard that there would be instances in which Mono would actually have to fight, I was intrigued. The horror setting definitely leans toward needing a weapon every so often. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was worried about tossing weapons into the mix. For a puzzle solving platformer, it would ruin the overall experience if suddenly Mono needed to regularly rely on them. I encountered instances where weapons fit seamlessly into the game. For example, there is a moment in the first level which sees Mono and Six work together in order to slow down an attacker. That scene, that moment, was a perfect application of this new feature.
Fast forward to Mono dragging an axe behind him, doing his best Pyramid Head impersonation. I carefully led him down a hallway lined with lockers. Intuition told me that there would be enemies ahead, and most likely ones that would spring forth from lockers that looked ajar. Considering the size of the axe, of course Mono could only drag it. It is heavier than my bag head boy and the length is equal to his height. Swinging it to hit the rather spry enemies ahead required split-second precision. And when I failed, there was no second attempt to recover and counter. Mono was immediately killed and I was sent back to the checkpoint.
The combat demands perfection. Mono cannot act a second too soon or fall a split second behind. Timing is everything with no chance to redeem yourself aside from starting over. The hallway scene wasn’t the first time I encountered this; I ran into a similar problem in the kitchen. That took a few attempts before I nailed the pattern and made my escape. But perfection comes at the cost of hand cramps. After ten strolls through that hallway, my trigger fingers were done. I was holding the left trigger to sneak while also keeping the right trigger down so I could carry the mallet. When the fight began, I stopped crouching, however replaying that scene so many times had done me in.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Little Nightmares II is still a lot of fun, with most of the puzzle challenges being right on point. I just wish there had been a little more consideration when crafting scenarios that required bashing and smashing. Nothing kills your gaming groove quite like running through the same battle for the umpteenth time with sore hands. If Tarsier makes this a trilogy, I’d be down for them leaving in weapons for environmental puzzle purposes. However, weighing your players down with bulky and unwieldy items for the hell of it just ruins a great atmospheric horror game. Nix that sort of combat for Six’s next adventure, please and thanks.