Due to a short delay to development, this year’s Dark Pictures offering is releasing at a perfectly spooky time. This second game in the anthology focuses on witchcraft and the occult – a stark comparison to 2019 and Man of Medan’s terrifying ghost trip hallucinogenics. How does The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope stand up?
After a bus crash, four members of a college class and their professor end up in the town of Little Hope. The bus driver has all but disappeared, and there is a mysterious fog that prevents them from turning back away from the town. It all feels very Silent Hill in these opening moments.
As they try and find someone in this seemingly deserted town, each member begins to feel that things aren’t as they should be in this town. Echoes of witch trials ring through, and a few even experience flashbacks to a time when people were being hung, drowned, or worse if they were suspected of witchcraft. What is even more weird is that these flashbacks appear to show their doppelgangers as the ones being condemned to death.
To differentiate, their doppelgangers all have broad Yorkshire accents, which pleased this proud Yorkshireman no end. Laughably after the first couple of flashbacks, many references are made to how the main American cast cannot understand what these people are saying. There is even a setting in the subtitles to turn them on for the 1692 crew! Thanks, Little Hope for giving me a complex surrounding my accent.
I joke of course: it is a joy to hear my native tongue. Even if it is for a town obsessed with the occult.
As the group progresses, these flashbacks occur more often. They are always preceded by a jump scare of a ghost grabbing one of them; initially these are a highly effective scare. But repetition sets in and it gets to the point by which you can anticipate when these will occur.
Little Hope does however feature creepy little girls, and if there’s anything I’ve learnt from my Bioshock days, these are always nightmare fuel.
Just like Man of Medan, all of the main cast are hugely dislikeable, and perhaps this trait goes back to its predecessor Until Dawn. Even after a particular tense moment they are bickering amongst each other; sometimes it is a joy to get one of them killed off early.
That’s because, once again, Little Hope is a narrative-based choose-your-own-adventure affair, where every decision has an impact on proceedings. You are overseen, as always, by The Curator who cryptically guides and advises you as the player about what has been and what is to come.
As you progress, conversation responses are usually graded by a head or heart answer. And as I discovered in my first playthrough, these have far more of a bearing on character outcomes than they did in Man of Medan. Due to the nature of the story – and without giving too much away – decisions in Little Hope need to be far less selfish this time around as it isn’t just people in the immediate vicinity that can be affected.
But whilst every decision ‘can’ have an impact, Little Hope can quickly take all that away and make you play by its own rules. I wouldn’t say I was an expert by any means, but after repeat playthroughs of Until Dawn and Man of Medan there was one point in Little Hope where I knew something wasn’t quite right. Andrew – the main character played by Will Poulter – had picked up a gun and now was the time to use it against a shadowy figure approaching the group. It felt like this would have been a perfect time to use the combat button prompt to aim up the shot but, as I wasn’t totally convinced the approaching figure was an enemy, I wanted to miss the shot. Instead, Little Hope took that option away from me and took the shot for me. It turned out to be a member of my college class, and my no death run was ruined.
There are other improvements made over Man of Medan; you seem to have a bit more time to anticipate an upcoming QTE. An icon will appear giving you a few seconds to prepare yourself, whereas previously it would just appear without much time for you to react. Collectible secrets and premonitions also make a return, helping you piece together the overall narrative and get a helping hand on some tricky, life-threatening decisions for the cast.
There is also a premonition hidden away related to the next title, House of Ashes, as well as a little teaser trailer for it after the credits. Stray off the linear path and you will be rewarded.
Improvements have been made performance-wise as well, but Little Hope still suffers at times. On one occasion, Angela, the mature student, witnesses a flashback. Or at least she was supposed to, but all I got was a stutter to the end of the previous cutscene, and then her mentioning what had happened moments after. Other times, the game briefly froze for a few seconds. Thankfully though, this time around I was able to complete Little Hope in more than one sitting as my save state managed to not corrupt itself.
The excellent Movie Night and Shared Story experiences are once again both present in Little Hope. Movie Night allows up to five people – all in the same household – to play through the story and experience it together as a film, passing the controller around when it is your chosen character’s turn on screen. Then, Shared Story allows two players online to simultaneously play different sections at the same time. I would always recommend playing Shared Story with the microphone off though; not so you don’t have to hear your mate’s screams, but because you are less likely to share information between each other that may dampen the experience.
Shared Story will also reduce the overall length that Little Hope takes to complete, but even so this is a longer game than Man of Medan.
Little Hope on the Xbox One is a substantially different horror game than Man of Medan, and that is one of the beauties of The Dark Pictures Anthology. However, that does mean that gone are the tight corridors of Man of Medan, replaced by a lot of walking on empty roads and dirt paths in Little Hope. It was a tale that I personally found a lot less scary, though this could be down to familiarity of the anthology starting to creep in. It is still more than capable of producing a decent amount of scares though as the nights start to draw in.