'Little Hope' Review: A Chilling Horror Experience Best Shared With Friends
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Featured Image Credit: Bandai Namco
Little Hope is the second entry in the Dark Pictures Anthology developed by Supermassive Games, and follows a group of students and their college professor after their bus crashes in a decrepit town steeped in a suffocating fog and with some disturbing ties to the past. Namely, the Salem witch trials.
This undeniably creepy time in history is only one part of a three-pronged and multi-layered story, spanning the present day, the 1970s, and 1692. The town of Little Hope you see, has a lot of secrets (stop me if you've heard this one before). It's cloaked in dense fog, haunted by twisted monsters (no really, stop me) and has an ambiguity that sets it not quite on earth and not quite beyond, where characters are seemingly trapped in limbo until they can resolve their predicament. I did check, and Little Hope isn't quite an anagram of Silent Hill, but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
Each character, you see, has their own doppelganger (or double, as they're often referred to in the game) across the three time periods played ably by the game's cast. Standout performances from Will Poulter (Bandersnatch, We're The Millers, The Maze Runner) and Pip Torrens (The Crown) as a mysterious character known only as The Curator, lead a cast well aware of the fact that Little Hope isn't in the business of taking itself too seriously. As a result, we get some amiably campy performances with just the right amount of seriousness when the occasion calls for it.
Of course, one of the main draws of Supermassive productions is the multiple branching storylines that can develop, depending on how the player chooses to progress and interact with certain parts of the game. This naturally ups the replayability of Little Hope's roughly 10 hour story. You'll want to play it through at least twice to grab all the secrets and see all the monsters the game has (there's six altogether, but you'll only ever see five in a run) but I don't think anybody outside of the hardcore fanbase will be hitting the story multiple times beyond that to get all the possible endings.
Even on a second run where I was trying to do things drastically differently, there wasn't much that changed in the way the characters spoke to each other or how events played out, at least not until a few hours in. I really did enjoy my time with Little Hope though, and its incredibly eerie atmosphere puts it firmly above Man Of Medan but below Until Dawn (which is still the high-water mark in my opinion) in the rankings of the developer's games.
One of the coolest features is something that returns from Man Of Medan, which allows you to either pass the controller around a group of people playing in the same room, or play with another person (who doesn't have to own the game) from your friend list online. This brilliant addition makes it a much more fun experience, and is the difference between watching a horror film alone or with another person - having somebody else to live through the drama with is always going to be a better time.
If you've ever played a Supermassive game before, Little Hope isn't going to throw any curve balls your way in terms of gameplay - interactive decision based cutscenes, exploring an area picking up arbitrary objects looking for clues and occasionally cacking your pants at the overly numerous jumpscares. For example, I was wandering around a family home mere moments into the game, and was rudely assaulted by the bong of a grandfather clock. The scares do get more macabre than this, but how long the fun of jumpscares lasts really depends on your personal threshold for them. For me, I would have much preferred a more slow-build kind of terror and discomfort than the jumpscares, especially when you're dealing with such a grim period of American history as the witch trials.
The camera can be a bit wonky sometimes when you're roaming, and it harkens back to classic Resident Evil every now and then with some fixed angles, which is atmospherically great, but can make movement a little clunky. Similarly, when you're looking around with your flashlight it'll often drift off in the wrong direction leaving you struggling to re-find your center. An annoyance for sure when you're in a pitch-black patch of woodland trying to follow a poorly highlighted trail.
For what it's worth, Little Hope is a really good looking game. Monsters are grotesque and terrifying with disconcerting movements to boot. The lighting deserves special mention for the plunging deep shadows and misty locales that help to create a truly unsettling atmosphere. Character faces can drift in and out of the uncanny valley, and the lip-synching is kinda all over the place, but suspension of disbelief will get you through the worst of it. Thankfully, Will Poulter's magnificent eyebrows made it through the digital rendering process relatively unscathed.
The sadists among you will also be pleased to know that you can rack up some seriously grizzly deaths for the characters if you're not careful with your decision making. Or indeed, if you're careful to make all the wrong decisions, which I'd entirely encourage on a playthrough if only to see the fruits of your evil labour.
Little Hope is a genuinely good time horror game, that isn't quite at the apex of what the team behind it can achieve. It's good fun alone but really comes alive when shared with another person, or group. I have no doubt that when the full Dark Pictures Anthology is complete and sold as a package, that history will remember it quite fondly. Despite the well worn path this entry treads at times, it whittles out enough of a memorable story for those who dig these kinds of games to really find enjoyment in.
7/10 - Very Good
Pros: creepy monsters, great acting, really comes alive when playing with others.
Cons: well-trodden horror clichés, heavily reliant on jumpscares.
For fans of: Until Dawn, Man Of Medan, Silent Hill.
Little Hope is out October 30th on PS4, Xbox and PC. PlayStation 4 code for review was supplied by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.