Spin back a year and it’s the beginning of 2020 and with the bushfires raging all around us, leaving us no option but to stay home, the wife and I decide to play through Supermassive’s new game: The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan. Both of those events now seem somewhat poignant in the way they set the tone for that year; the mix of utter banality in the midst of the world turning itself upside down in the face of once-in-a-lifetime (I fucking hope) style disasters. So it was interesting to find ourselves both sitting down, in the same place a year later looking to play through the newest addition to this series: Little Hope. Suffice to say whilst it still doesn’t hold a candle to Until Dawn in my books it’s definitely a step up from the previous instalment and, should the trend continue, the next one should be something of note.
You once again meet with the Curator who, after seeing the events of the prologue unfold, tells you it was an inevitable tragedy and you should focus on the future. In this story he wants you to walk through a bus driver taking four students: Andrew, Angela, Daniel, and Taylor, along with their professor John, on a class trip is forced to take a detour through the ghost town of Little Hope due to an accident blocking the road. Seemingly out of nowhere though a little girl appears in the road and the bus driver swerves off the road causing the bus to flip over. This then leaves your endeavouring troupe of 5 stranded in the middle of nowhere, shaken to their core from the sudden crash. So begins your journey to find help and hopefully track down the bus driver who has mysteriously vanished.
Little Hope continues Supermassive’s trend for cutting edge visuals, even on dated previous gen systems like my first generation PS4. The game’s aesthetic is inbetween that of Man of Medan and Until Dawn, still being somewhat dark but having enough moments where the work put into the characters and environments are able to shine through. Part of this could also be due to us playing it on our new LG OLED TV which is capable of HDR content, something that our 12 year old Samsung LCD wasn’t able to (indeed looking over my screenshots for both shows similar levels of darkness). Still this time around I felt that the graphics seemed a lot better than they did in the previous one, even though there’s likely little difference between them.
The same game mechanics are present here as they were in Man of Medan, as you’d expect from a game series like this. Exploration of the environments is the main thing you’ll be doing, looking for clues or items that’ll help you get through this level and onto the next. Quick time events are present and numerous, taking the form of your usual “push this button NOW” thing and the heartbeat mechanic that made an appearance in the first game. You also have a bunch of secondary mechanics which aren’t explained at all but have a massive impact on your playthrough. They really only matter the first time around though as once you go through the game once it becomes clear what they mean. Interestingly we didn’t pick up on this the first time around and so now I’m questioning whether or not our first bite at this series was simply let down due to our lack of understanding of how to play the damn thing.
My wife and I were playing this in “Movie Night” mode where we basically got to take turns with the various characters throughout the playthrough. I’ve also spoken to a mate of mine who’s played this online with someone else and honestly I think his version of the experience sounded a lot cooler than ours. You see one of the interesting things my mate told me about was that he was seeing things that the other player wasn’t, which is a really interesting way of building up the tension in the game. For my wife and I though? We basically saw everything at the same time so we were pretty much always on the same page with how things were going down.
PLOT AND MECHANICS SPOILERS BELOW
Which is where I think we ran contrary to the intended way of playing the game, should your objective be to make sure that every character survives the night. You see the Curator gives you a hint at the start of the game, “To thine own self be true”, a seemingly throwaway line that really doesn’t mean anything. However once you get to a couple pivotal events in the game, no matter how well you played, you won’t be able to save all your characters if you haven’t played along their default characteristics. Of course for at least 2 (and arguably 1 more) playing to these characteristics feels wrong as you basically end up being a dick to one another. However this is required for these characters to break free at certain points, even if it means you trash relationships or end up doing something that seems utterly disastrous at the time.
I am in two camps with this. On the one hand bravo for telling me to my face what I needed to do and then craft the game in a way that makes me think that doing exactly that would be the wrong thing. On the other it does seem like a cheap way to try and get me to do another playthrough to get the ending I want and, worst of all, it’s worked on my wife as I’ve caught her spinning it up again when she gets a moment or two spare.
This would all be for naught though if the story was trash and whilst I don’t think it’ll win any awards it was still far, far more enjoyable than Man of Medan. The various twists and turns that it takes throughout your playthrough are captivating enough to ensure that a single sit playthrough of this isn’t a chore, even though it’s about 5 hours long. To be sure this kinda-sorta B-grade horror is Supermassive’s schtick so it’s really not surprising to see it stick true to most of the tropes (even if it does engage in some 4th wall mockery of itself). Probably the biggest letdown is where there are obviously choices which simply don’t matter which is a bit of a let down considering that that’s what the game is predicated on.
PLOT AND MECHANIC SPOILERS OVER
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is a good evolution of the series, making small improvements here and there to both the game and the storytelling that results in a more solid and enjoyable game. To be sure if you didn’t like the first one then this one isn’t going to be much different but if like my wife and I you found the original to be a bit meh and were left wanting this will likely hit the spot. Hopefully this trend continues and the third instalment, House of Ashes, improves on it even further.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC right now for $49.95. Game was played on the PlayStation 4 with a total of 5 hours playtime and 25% of the trophies unlocked.