I am a big fan of narrative adventure games. The Telltale Games stuff was my jam, but I’ve also liked Quantic Dream’s, Dontnod’s, and Supermassive’s contributions to the genre. In 2015, Supermassive delivered what is probably my favorite entry in the genre, Until Dawn on the Playstation 4. It was the closest thing to playing an actual horror film. Supermassive then paired with Bandai Namco to create an anthology series in the same vein called The Dark Pictures Anthology.
The first entry in The Dark Pictures series was 2019’s Man of Medan and I liked it but found it to be not quite as good as Until Dawn. Something was off about it for me but I’ve decided that was mostly due to Man of Medan being a ghost story of sorts (it’s not but on the surface it is) and I’m not big on ghosts. Because of this, I had big hopes for the second anthology game, Little Hope. (Yes, I know that sentence sounds horrid I’m leaving it).
Little Hope kicks off in explosive fashion with the game introducing us to a family in the 70s and then we get to watch nearly all of them suffer horrific deaths. None of the choices here seem to impact the outcome and everyone ends up dead regardless. Then we fast forward to the present day where a small group of students and their professor are on their way back from a field trip. The bus they are on needs to be diverted due to an accident, through the little town of Little Hope. The bus crashes, the driver goes missing, and the player is tasked with figuring out what is going on.
It’s creepy and dark but not particularly sinister. That is of course until our protagonists start to see visions from the 1600s. We find out that Little Hope was the home of witch trials similar to those in Salem, Massachusetts but the weird thing is that the people our characters see are mirror images of themselves, who in turn are also mirror images of the family from the prologue that took place in the 70s. “What’s going on here?”, is the constant vibe and the game’s narrative does an excellent job of piecing it all together. I was really engaged with the narrative. Oh and there are some excellent and effective jump scares here, up among the best I’ve played in a game.
Because the game is self contained, the choices you make can impact the outcome in dramatic ways. The way you choose dialog can unlock (or keep) locked certain traits that can dictate how a scene plays out. But dialog is only a portion of the gameplay here. The big piece is obviously exploration, Little Hope wants and needs you to explore the environment to get the most out of it. There are all sorts of items to examine and collect. But exploring, even in a creepy environment is rather chill, it is the action sequences that will get your blood pumping. The action is done via quick time events, of which there are three types. There are the standard types, press this button on cue and tap this button rapidly, but there is also a rhythm based one that serves as the game’s stealth mechanic. In this stealth QTE, you have to press a button in time with your heart beat, in a horizontal track. Despite being fairly decent at rhythm games, I sucked at these and failed all but one. That said, I wasn’t frustrated by it because failure didn’t immediately mean death.
Speaking of death, I was able to keep three of the five characters alive. I’m still a bit bent about one of the deaths (it seems to be decided by a dialog choice and not your actions) but the other one I was fine with because I failed two QTEs and well, he deserved it.
When I finished the game last night, I felt that I really liked it but it was maybe just under Until Dawn but now I’m not sure. Little Hope is just more tonally consistent than Until Dawn and sticks to one horror genre. Add in that Little Hope also has improved a lot of Until Dawn and Man of Medan’s QTE quirks and Little Hope might be the better game. At the very least it’s an excellent narrative adventure horror game and if you like those types of games, you should find yourself a few hours (it took me five) to play through it.