Four students and their professor, fresh off a field trip, are stranded in the middle of a highway after their bus crashes. Your exploration uncovers deeper mysteries in a nearby New England town, one that’s steeped in occult rituals. This is what awaits you in The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, the next installment of Supermassive Games’ horror series.
There are several scares and frightening moments in the game that make it quite memorable. However, there was a particularly glaring flaw that’s become the series’ trademark over the years.
From Man of Medan to Little Hope
I must admit that the offerings from Supermassive Games tend to intrigue me. 2015’s Until Dawn was one of my favorite games for the PlayStation 4. That was followed by Man of Medan, which I reviewed last year. While there were a few flaws, Man of Medan encapsulated the thrills of the genre while its story offered numerous branching paths.
The same can be said for Little Hope, the second installment of The Dark Pictures Anthology — Until Dawn isn’t part of the series, although similar mechanics and concepts are shared. In Man of Medan, a bunch of friends and would-be adventurers get trapped inside an abandoned freighter. Terrors start to manifest given that the story is based on the tale of a ghost ship known as the SS Ourang Medan.
Little Hope‘s story, meanwhile, has the Andover Witch Trials as its backdrop and inspiration. The town of Salem, Massachusetts became well known for the witch hunts that occurred in the late 17th century. However, studies and records have shown that other towns, most notably the nearby village of Andover, had more cases of witchcraft accusations and witch trials.
The Andover Witch Trials
This historical backdrop sets the stage for what your characters experience. With Andrew, Taylor, Daniel, Angela, and John lost in the middle of nowhere, you’ve got your work cut out for you as their fears manifest.
As they continue to explore the roads, clearings, and buildings of Little Hope, they see remnants of past historical events. Effigies and carvings are found on trees. Poppets, straw dolls, and strange ritual sites dot the landscape. There’s even a Museum of Witchcraft complete with creepy depictions.
Then, there are the eerie visions of the past. People who seem to be from another era haunt them and tell them of their plight. They see the trials and executions in grim detail. Were they truly enthralled by the devil? Or was there something that’s a lot more sinister for you to discover?
Shrouded in mists
The atmosphere in The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is top-notch. From the ambient sounds to the visual detail, you feel a sense of tension and foreboding in the air. The game does have a few jump scares, which slightly dilutes the experience. Still, the overall atmosphere and presentation more than make up for it. This is predominantly due to Little Hope‘s usage of lighting and fog effects.
As you walk around town and wave your flashlight or mobile phone, you start worrying that something else might be lurking in the shadows. Meanwhile, the limited lighting cast on objects and surfaces keeps that sense of dread as darkness surrounds you.
The thick fog that permeates in multiple locations also plays a major role, reminiscent of that gripping terror you’ve felt in the classic Silent Hill games. In fact, walking through the mist will disorient your characters, twisting and turning them around as if they never moved away from their initial spot. There were a few times when the hairs at the back of my neck stood up because another thing was right in front of me. I’d realize a second later that it was a different companion who was behind me just a few moments ago. It’s not only unnerving and unsettling, but it’s also a terrific use of the mechanic.
Likewise, the game has acceptable (if average) performance. With an Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti GPU and Intel i7-7700k CPU, I was getting around 30-40 FPS at 4K resolution using high settings. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any major slowdowns or freezes. Plus, no longer restrained to the clunky movement and camera usage in Man of Medan, playing Little Hope feels a lot more responsive (though the controls are still better on a gamepad than with a mouse and keyboard setup).
Character choices and dilemmas
Like Until Dawn and Man of Medan, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope provides numerous choices and dilemmas. Many of these determine the fate of your characters. In fact, some of your actions (or reactions) earlier in the game would lead to a particular outcome much later. The idea of lasting consequences becomes more prevalent as you continue to play, and some of these aren’t as obvious as others.
Regarding the characters, the voice acting and performances are quite satisfactory. The group led by Andrew (Will Poulter), and the mysterious and enigmatic Curator (Pip Torrens), add bits and pieces of the story to keep you wanting more. Little Hope‘s Choose Your Own Adventure gameplay complements the cinematic presentation owing to the cast’s performance. Indeed, you’ll notice vibes from The Omen, The Crucible, and various flicks from time to time.
Of course, the game relies on quick-time events (QTEs), “Keep Calm” minigames, and aim-and-shoot moments. This isn’t survival horror, but there are chapters and scenes with a lot of happenings. One failed choice, a misstep, or an incorrect button press might spell a character’s doom.
There are several improvements in this installment, too. For instance, accessibility options let you press the same button for QTEs, or hold that button rather than mashing it. Prompts also appear on your screen to warn you when a key sequence is about to occur. Likewise, certain chase or action scenes have perspectives switching back and forth between characters. This was a surprise for a single-player run, but I do think it’ll be a treat for those who want to try out multiplayer.
Fun alone or with friends
Speaking of multiplayer, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope carries onward with Man of Medan‘s multiplayer aspects. There’s the online experience where buddies can pick different characters and take control of them when needed as well as the “pass-and-play” system for local multiplayer.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try out the multiplayer modes during the course of this review. Still, I found the single-player runs entertaining. I enjoyed looking for alternate scenes, key decisions, Curator’s Cut differences, and various secrets such as premonitions (postcards that depict life or death situations).
However, my main gripe with Supermassive Games’ titles hasn’t changed. Whether it’s Until Dawn, Man of Medan, or Little Hope, there’s still no way to skip cutscenes. If you want to experience several facets of the story and other perspectives, you’re forced to sit through the same scenes and dialogue that you’ve watched beforehand. It gets extremely tiresome and tedious and, given that this is already the third offering of this nature, the time has come to make some necessary changes. Even the scene selection option doesn’t help matters since you have to replay a chapter from the very beginning.
Another great entry for The Dark Pictures Anthology
In any case, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope will manage to wow you especially if you’ve enjoyed the previous titles. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that this might keep horror fans delighted. If Man of Medan disappointed you due to a certain plot twist, then Little Hope might give you qualms. However, there’s still the interwoven narrative arc and the fascinating lore that surrounds a dreary, fog-covered corner of New England.
The story, even if a bit short (around five hours for a single playthrough), has a deeper and richer meaning, more than what I’ve come to expect. The twists and turns, as well as the Curator’s Cut, entice and increase replayability. Naturally, the frights, scares, and foreboding atmosphere haunt your characters throughout. If you’re keen on grabbing The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope via Steam, then be prepared to enjoy a thematic game for Halloween.