Another installment of Supermassive Games’ The Dark Pictures Anthology is upon us. This next chapter in the series places players in the town of Little Hope, a mysterious and enigmatic city beset with tragedy and a dark history. Similar to the previous entry, Man of Medan, this bite sized story attempts to scare players while convincing them that their choices will result in life or death for mostly under developed cast of characters.
Little Hope is probably one of the worst and least engaging pieces of horror related media I have ever had the opportunity to engage with. That isn’t to say that the ideas that culminate and form the story aren’t interesting, as some of them truly are. However, the way these concepts are utilized is where the problems lie.
Cheap jump scares are plenty, and what might have been tense or even vaguely frightening at the start become old and irritating very quickly. There is one sort of jump scare specifically that happens several times throughout the course of the game that left me begging for a the developer to find a different way to transition between scenes. Why? It just wasn’t frightening. There wasn’t any meaning to it. It didn’t have any greater purpose than to just “scare” the player. And that’s Little Hope’s problem. There isn’t anything of substance beyond its initial ideas.
The latest installment of the Dark Pictures Anthology, Little Hope, largely takes place between two periods of time: 2020 and the year 1692. Like other Supermassive Games, you control a handful of characters that you swap between during specific points through the story. Each of these characters begins to learn the harrowing secret behind why they were brought to Little Hope and the connection they have to the witch trials that had taken place in the 16th century. In retrospect, it is a deeply interesting concept that could have tied the past and the present together masterfully with the idea of reincarnation and inescapable fates taking centerstage.
Little Hope doesn’t do that.
When Until Dawn released, there were comparisons made comparing it to late 1990s teenage horror flicks, which were fairly apt. Supermassive Games arguably nailed that concept and effectively reinvigorated a style of game which had otherwise gone away after the release of titles like Friday the 13th on the Super Nintendo. However, the latest addition to the Dark Pictures Anthology feels like a whole lot of nothing and is probably one of the worst amalgamations of the films (and the game) that inspire it.
Within the first thirty minutes, you can easily tell what Supermassive Games took as a point of reference for Little Hope. This includes stumbling through an impossibly thick fog chasing after a little girl in a school uniform. If that sounds familiar, its because it should. However, this is the only cue Little Hope took from Silent Hill that resembles those Team Silent games. At every instance, you can feel Little Hope trying to be “something,” but that “something” never really comes to fruition.
Stilted dialogue, bad character writing, and odd camera cuts make for a less than engaging experience. It felt like I was a semi-active participant while watching a mid 2000s supernatural thriller–but not a good one. Thankfully, unlike Until Dawn and Man of Medan, the QTE prompts are much easier this time around. There is also an entire tab dedicated to accessibility features for them. Here, players can change QTE prompts from repeated presses of a button to simply holding it down. QTE time outs can also be disabled. And unlike those previous two games, I was actually able to read the subtitles while sitting on my couch and not huddled up next to it like I would usually have to do while playing video games.
However, the accessibility features are the only saving grace for Little Hope. That and maybe the ability to load any chapter to change your choices and create new saves. If that feature didn’t exist, I’m not entirely sure what I would have done. Unfortunately, it is not like that matters much, as the endings are mostly the same. That can be said for most of the choices made throughout the game, with only a handful actually mattering in meaningful ways.
You make your choice and you see your ending, and there aren’t many other ways for Little Hope to turn out. And while the reveal is somewhat interesting, it’s only interesting because nothing else of value happened during the four or more hours you’ve spent with it. The best parts of the game are the shortest and honestly, it would have benefited from just being a period piece similar to The Witch. Instead, Little Hope throws you between time periods intermittently, expecting you to piece things together. Which is honestly extremely easy to do, since characters remind you of plot threads even in their dazed stupors, constantly mumbling “What was that?” or “What just happened?” for the nth time in a row.
That is another issue I have with Little Hope. It doesn’t trust the audience to understand what is going on and completely removes any room for imagination to take hold and create something worse than what is visually being presented on screen. The best parts of horror are the moments left to our imagination, the things that we create based on observations and the commentary that we find nestled between broad strokes of imagery or what the narrative has to offer. Little Hope has none of these things. Instead, the resolution quickly comes to an end after dragging on for hours with a twist akin to an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Without spoilers, Little Hope is a surface-level look at trauma in a way that resembles popcorn horror flicks of the aforementioned era, complete with bad acting and inconsistent pacing.
It should be mentioned that players can get hit with a few loading screens here and there, but they aren’t terribly long when they do happen. Aside from that, I did have issues with some character models popping in and out of cutscenes in specific instances or lighting not completely loading. These weren’t game-breaking in any way, but they destroyed whatever atmosphere any scene was attempting to build up by their intrusion. I was playing the game on the base model of the PlayStation 4, and it definitely had my fan whirling. This issue may not be as persistent on other consoles or on PCs.
There is nothing offensive about the story in Little Hope, and nothing immediately sets off warning bells or narrative decisions I would tell players to consider before going into it. At most, the game is just boring and uninteresting. Unless you happen to have some spare cash and want to pass the time, I really can’t recommend it. You’re better off spending your time elsewhere, even if that means revisiting the horror games of yesteryear to scratch that itch. Just don’t expect anything going in to Little Hope, because there isn’t much to get out of it other than cheap scares and an underwhelming end to an even more underwhelming story.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is immediately available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.