The closest that we have come to actually playing through a horror movie has definitely come from Supermassive Games. They brought us the groundbreaking, Until Dawn back in 2015. Until Dawn changed the choose-your-own adventure format into a choose-your-own horror fiasco. One where you could choose what befalls your particular group of unsuspecting teens in a cabin… or what have you. With their latest entry, The Dark Pictures Anthology Little Hope brings more of that living in a horror film experience but this time to varying levels of successful execution… no pun intended.
Much like The Dark Pictures Anthology Man of Medan, this one again has you meeting with The Curator at the games intro. He introduces you to an all new story where you are tasked with choosing how the group interacts, what choices they make, how their relationships will pan out and ultimately if they will live or die. The Curator is The Dark Pictures version of the Crypt Keeper from Tales From the Crypt or Funeral Parlor owner from Tales From the Hood.
Little Hope focuses on four University students and their Professor who have a bus accident in the middle of nowhere on a pitch black road. The bus driver is nowhere to be found and its up to your group of 5 to find help. The objective begins as you trying to get back on track and to get the hell out of this spooky situation. So aptly, the group immediately sets off for the small town of Little Hope.
The second Dark Pictures title is a third-person perspective-based game just like Man of Medan was. It again places you in situation where dialogue trees and actions directly affect how the game will play out. Now, there are plenty of games that say that your choices make a difference, but the reality is that the outcomes are usually pretty fixed and don’t change very much at all. Dark Pictures on the other hand really means it. Decisions can directly lead to your characters dying. Much like the first game, deaths are marked by quick saves. So, its no use trying to go back and retry in order to get a second chance. You botch it the first time and that’s just how it plays out. Them’s the berries.
There are plenty of jump scares scattered throughout the game. So, be prepared for that. Some effective and some just going for a cheap scare. Man of Medan seemed to go for a lot more carefully crafted scares, while Little Hope at times feels like its going for low hanging fruit.
There is a lot of walking around and chatting. A lot. Like, A lot of walking around and chatting. Worst of all, the tasks that you are taking on in order to find your bus driver and get the heck out of Dodge, are pretty stale. It is primarily made up of things like going to a building to search for a phone. Then going back to try to find the other half of the group you got separated from. The getting around is a slog at times.
It’s not all bad though, the group does have strange run ins with ghosts that transport them back to 1692, to the era of Witch Trials and Witch Finders. To make everything even more strange, the people back in the 1692 that you travel to look like you are your bus mates. It falls into your lap to find out what happened at that witch trial and who was at fault. Of course, you have to do all that while trying to survive a night in which relentless golems will do everything in their power to kill you, and never stop coming for you.
On top of the walking around and dialogue trees. There are a lot of quicktime events. I’ve never been a fan of quicktime events to be honest. And this game has a lot of them. Again, this is a situation where, both Man of Medan and Until Dawn did a more thought out approach to those quicktime events. I know that they got flack for making them too sudden or too difficult, but I actually preferred them that way. These are frequent and they are dull.
To a certain extent in both Until Dawn and Man of Medan some of the funnest bits of the whole experience were the big nasty deaths awaiting your group. They were all memorable and absolutely brutal. I recall, that I made it all the way through Until Dawn without any of my primary characters dying. Now, while that was a testament to my skills to pay the bills when it comes to gaming, it was also the least fun way to play this sort of game. A slasher title really needs the slashing. Here in Little Hope, there weren’t enough of those big nasty set piece deaths. They aren’t terrible they just didn’t come with the creativity of Supermassive Games’ past death scenes.
Little Hope is best played with friends. The game allows for a cool multiplayer mode that puts you and your friends in charge of different characters from the bus. It adds a nice dynamic to the gameplay. I know that I usually try to do the polite thing during dialogue trees, so it’s interesting playing with someone who chooses the “fuck you” option more than not.
Controls are the same as they have been in both previous titles, they are third-person perspective based. Meaning no matter what, you will have that thing happen where you are walking one direction, the angle changes, and suddenly you are walking the wrong way. It’s nothing that I can’t get over, in fact for some reason I like that. It’s got a little charm to it, and calls back to old spooky games like Alone in the Dark and the like.
It’s no small feat to make your game look and operate like a dang movie and Little Hope does accomplish that. The whole world is cinematic and feels lived in. The level design Is nicely done and really captures those snapshots of folk lore horror nicely.
Little Hope never fully won me over. There were small sections where intrigue about the witches and the 1692 folk horror lore would pull me in, but the execution of dialogue, and timing took me right out of any sort of immersion that could have been had. Over all the story itself is a well-written one. It’s a good ghost story at its heart, but sadly everything around that structure can’t hold on. Overly simplified quicktime events, floaty dialogue trees and the total lack of character development wasn’t the whole 9-yards that Supermassive Games is known for. The best way to experience Little Hope is in multiplayer. The wild card factor of friends being involved makes things more interesting and sort of draws attention away from some of the lesser parts of dialogue.
The Dark Pictures Anthology ends and teases the third chapter titled House of Ashes. The most intriguing part of the short glimpse that it gives you features none other than Pazuzu – the Demon of Wind. You might know him as the demon who possessed Regan in The Exorcist. So, yea. Lots to look forward to there!
The Dark Pictures Anthology Little Hope is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC for $29.99.