|Platforms||PC, Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed)|
|Release Date||October 30th, 2020|
Coming off the success of Until Dawn and the moderate reception of Man of Medan, the second game in The Dark Pictures Anthology is finally here. Still narrated by the creepy Curator, a mysterious figure who presumably is the embodiment of death, Little Hope focuses on a group of teenagers stranded in a mysterious and spooky town shrouded in fog after their bus crashes and the bus driver goes missing. While the premise feels more like true horror after the psychological scares of its predecessor, many may ask… is Little Hope the better game? Read on to find out!
Language: F-bombs and other expletives are plentiful as the group consists of both teenagers and adults. Nothing is too out of place, though, as everything said is in the context of the horrifying events the characters face.
Violence: Characters can get shot in the neck, dragged off by a demon, or be drowned, stabbed, impaled, burned, or suffer any other horrific bodily injury (honestly, seeing a character crushed to death by rocks was the most difficult to watch because of how long it took).
Drug Use: This is where Little Hope is most tame as there is a moment where the characters can choose to indulge in alcohol and whether or not they do so can have a lasting impact on the events that transpire.
Spiritual Content: While the game is set in the same place, it occurs across three timelines, the most important of which are the Witch Trials that took place in the 1600s. It is here where players will find most of the spiritual content, as it feels like parts of this game came straight from The Village or any other movie set during this time. There is a priest literally hellbent on ridding the town of those he considers to be guilty of practicing witchcraft. Players will find religious books, even a Bible with cult-like symbols, similar to Man of Medan. It doesn’t try to push religion in one way or another but does seem to point out the dangers of being so devout as to burn your loved ones at the stake based on hearsay and circumstantial evidence. It doesn’t necessarily require one to be a person of faith to fall victim to these ruses.
Right off the bat, Little Hope evokes a creepy, unsettling atmosphere as we see a bus driving through the woods in the black of night. Players can hear voices laughing and find out it’s a school trip for a group of students and their professors. After almost hitting what appears to be a little girl standing in the street, the bus driver loses control of the vehicle and blacks out. Soon after, the rest of the group wakes to find the bus driver missing and their friend Andrew (played by Will Poulter) boasting a head injury and possibly a concussion. From here players will alternate between the five protagonists Taylor, her boyfriend/not boyfriend Daniel, Andrew, their professor Angela, and their Principal/Dean John as they explore the foggy town while evading their own personal demons.
Gameplay in Little Hope is almost identical to that of its predecessors, though some much-needed improvements have been made. For starters, the frequent “hold your breath” QTEs from past games return here, but they are much easier to successfully complete this time and they don’t last quite as long. Also, combat sequences and reactions to events in general have slowed down just enough that they’re difficult to fail. Collectibles appear in much the same way they existed in Man of Medan and consist of postcards strewn throughout the town that reveal upcoming events or even character deaths. Other collectibles unlock secrets relating to the three timelines that further explain why our main group keeps running into ghosts that look just like them. When they do encounter a ghost, it takes them back in time to the 1600s where they can see and interact with the little girl, Mary, and their doppelgangers. Though, no one else in this timeline seems to be able to detect their presence.
The scares make more sense here and the threat feels more real, as there isn’t just some gas filtering around the town that causes the heroes to hallucinate everything. Each character has their own personal demon that pursues the group throughout the game, and their grotesque appearances match the way they died in the 1600s parallel timeline. Once I realized this, the game got way more terrifying. I don’t want to spoil the surprise this time that ties everything together, but while it’s alluded to many times by Daniel, I was completely caught off guard by the reveal.
Bearings and traits also return but factor in more heavily to the ending this time around. While I normally don’t like games that force me to play a certain way, playing to each character’s traits so that they unlock on their profile and match the corresponding bearings will ultimately lead to the best outcome. However, players can also choose to go a different route and make the story and ending their own.
While almost everything about Little Hope is better, I didn’t care about its main cast nearly as much as I did in Man of Medan. While players got to see Julia and Alex’s relationship develop over the course of the last game alongside the rest of the cast, here Taylor and Daniel barely seem interested in each other and her interactions with Andrew are more flirtatious than with her own boyfriend. Angela seems to be stubborn and set in her ways just for the sake of it and appears to have a grudge against Taylor while hardly even knowing her. Daniel seems like your typical jock stereotype of the horror genre but he is actually a really nice guy—just with the charisma of a piece of wood. John, meanwhile, is the straight-edged logical thinker of the group and often gets angry if his authority or ideas are challenged, which isn’t helpful when your group of five is stranded in a foggy ghost town in the middle of the night. Andrew is the thread that holds the group together and is easily the most compassionate and empathetic of the group…so much so, in fact, that during my playthrough I almost wish I played as him exclusively, as his sequences seemed to have the most impact on what happens in the story and to everyone else.
The Curator’s Cut also makes a return and, much like the last game, is playable after finishing the story for the first time. It allows players to experience certain sequences from the eyes of the other characters and explore locations they may not have seen the first time. It also helps to encourage multiple playthroughs, as the game can be finished in about 5-6 hours or less depending on if you seek out collectibles and reload checkpoints to fix mistakes.
Overall, I am very intrigued with what Supermassive Games is trying to do with their anthology and I am eager to see how all the titles and the Curator tie in together. However, with the quality of these first two titles being so different from that of their first horror adventure, Until Dawn, I don’t quite think they’ve nailed that special formula just yet. Great horror comes down to characters you absolutely love (or love to hate), interesting and horrific villains, a sinister and foreboding atmosphere, and plausible but not too predictable plots with minimal reliance on jump scares. The Dark Pictures Anthology so far is only checking one or two of those boxes with each entry, but not all of them. Here is hoping their next title, teased at the end of the game, breaks this mold.
The Bottom Line
The Dark Pictures Anthology continues to hold much potential, but Little Hope's shortcomings show that Supermassive Games hasn't nailed their special formula just yet.