The plot thickens in a foggy ghost town
Supermassive Games is serving up another communal horror adventure just in time for Halloween.
Whether you dug Until Dawn and only Until Dawn, or you also played Man of Medan and thought it was decent cheesy fun, or you’re removed from this whole Dark Pictures Anthology saga but are kinda in the mood for a suspenseful, not-too-spooky Halloween game, I have to give Little Hope the thumbs-up.
It’s striking at the right place and the right time with the right setup: a town haunted by witch trials.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Released: October 30, 2020
While Little Hope is a standalone game, it follows the same one-sitting structure of Man of Medan, albeit with some lessons learned and a much more gripping and mysterious story to piece together.
Mechanically – and I absolutely love this as someone who isn’t guaranteed to play these games more than once – there are quick alerts before every individual QTE so you don’t have to keep your controller in a death-grip during cutscenes out of fear that you’ll miss an out-of-nowhere button prompt.
There’s also more breathing room during exploration – not just with wide-open streets to roam (and a free-moving third-person camera at times), but also with cues to stop you from accidentally “moving forward” to the next area before you’ve finished combing the area for hidden tidbit-filled collectibles.
That’s not to say Little Hope is a 100% step up across the board or that it’s some sprawling game. Not at all. Man of Medan feels claustrophobic and threatening in ways that Little Hope doesn’t quite match (for better and for worse), and it’s still a very guided experience with little room for emergent deviation.
That said, Supermassive has some fun contextual reasons to justify the game’s linearity (there’s an otherworldly fog pushing your crew deeper into the obviously effed-up ghost town). Heck, even the occasionally ridiculous banter checks out, on some level, with certain revelations (which I won’t spoil).
It all starts with an adrenaline-pumping doomsday scenario of a prologue that immediately got me invested in all five characters, the lead of which, Will Poulter, mostly acts as a vessel for the player.
The less I say, the better, but I want you to know that 1) there’s more going on here than an abandoned town that once horrifically tortured suspected witches and 2) this is a layered story that demands to be experienced again with hindsight. It took me five hours to beat, so that shouldn’t be a huge ask.
Little Hope isn’t as riveting the second time through, but it was satisfying to see key moments resonate in clever ways. There’s also the optional Curator’s Cut to spice things up with alternate scenes – to an extent. This time, I wasn’t able to test the share-the-controller Movie Night mode (for two to five players) or the online co-op Shared Story mode (for two players), but they’re the ideal ways to play.
To my surprise, I wasn’t outright scared or unnerved by anything so much as I was intrigued. That’s not necessarily a complaint, though it is worth mentioning so you can try to set your expectations.
I think Little Hope could’ve been terrifying and stressful if Supermassive wanted to borrow more paranoia-inducing tricks from Silent Hill‘s brand of hazy mischief, but The Dark Pictures Anthology is all about choice-driven cinematic horror that’s entertaining in a social setting. I get it. This chilling foggy backdrop could’ve been taken further, but at the same time, Little Hope tells a different story. (And the studio’s production schedule, budget, and scope seem pretty locked-in for these games at this point.)
Right up until the very end, I was dying to figure out how to escape Those Creepy Things for good, whether I had made the right calls, and what the deal was with a certain easy-to-hate character.
Little Hope proves that the Dark Pictures format isn’t a fluke and I’m excited for Supermassive to continue honing its craft. On that note, I love how these games tease forthcoming installments with collectible in-game premonitions. Next up, the seemingly Descent-inspired House of Ashes.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]