Little Hope is the second entry in Supermassive Games’ Dark Pictures Anthology. This collection of titles (which currently numbers two) looks to fully embrace the Choose Your Own Adventure genre, and this latest game is no different. Centered on a small group of students, Little Hope has players wrestle with decisions that will have a direct effect on the characters’ lives. While the story manages to be creepy, it does suffer from standard horror tropes and slow and cumbersome controls that make multiple playthroughs a bit of a chore. However, numerous endings and the unique multiplayer mode make it a worthwhile experience.
Events in Little Hope hop between the present day and the 1600s, and it all kicks off with a bang. After witnessing a house fire claim the lives of a family, the player meets a group of college students and their professor travelling to an event via bus. As you can imagine, this bus ride doesn’t go smoothly. In fact, the bus winds up on its side, with the passengers thrown clear after the driver swerves to avoid a creepy girl standing in the middle of the road.
Things get weird pretty much immediately. Part of the group tries to walk one direction – away from Little Hope – only to find themselves walking directly back to the group. It would seem that something about the area is preventing them from leaving, and so with no other option, they set out in search of help in Little Hope.
Because a game like Little Hope is so heavily dependent on its narrative, it’s critical that the game’s dialogue and story are engaging. I’m pleased to say that Little Hope is a riveting tale that manages to be both creepy and intriguing.
Throughout my co-op playthrough of Little Hope (where the controller is passed back and forth between players at the game’s prompting), I was constantly trying to piece together the story based on the evidence before my eyes. An item discovered here or a scene witnessed there manages to make the first playthrough a mysterious affair.
What’s more, Little Hope is a visually impressive game. The environments are gorgeous in their eerie moonlit manner, with the derelict town shrouded in fog making for a delightfully unnerving setting. Even the character models are remarkable, with the likes of Will Poulter being expertly rendered in-game. It all helps make the characters more believable and manages to really sell the setting.
Though the visuals make for a creepy viewing, the other horror elements within Little Hope are a bit disappointing. The game manages to be unnerving but never quite nails the sense of dread. The horror amounts to something running past the fixed-perspective camera with a loud noise or the monsters suddenly grabbing the characters out of nowhere. They’re cliché horror themes that any seasoned horror aficionado will either see coming or will otherwise be unaffected by.
And, although the characters are well-voiced and the dialogue is often rather natural, there are some issues to be found. Some of the scene blocking makes for unusual camera cuts, with the perspective jumping around all over the place. All these camera cuts can also lead to lines getting cut off too soon, or worse, a character taking far too many beats to begin talking despite the camera hanging on them.
Other problems stem from a lack of “combat lines”, dialogue that activates when something happens to a character outside of a cutscene (such as when a soldier yells “I’m friendly!” when you accidentally shoot them in Halo). For example, I walked one of the characters into a shed only to find a deer skull with antlers made of sticks hanging above an altar covered in black pebbles with little occult markings on them. The character didn’t react or give any indication that this concerned him.
Games like these are sold on the appeal of playing through multiple times to see the various endings. One sitting is never going to be enough to see everything on offer. For a game like Little Hope, the various outcomes and paths that lead there are all interesting, but unfortunately, multiple playhthroughs is precisely where Little Hope starts to show some of its other flaws.
From the onset, there are two options when it comes to the story: Theatrical Cut or Curator’s Cut. Both of these give a different perspective of events by focusing on one group instead of the other (when the students and their professor split or become separated). Similarly, if you controlled a scene using one character the Curator’s Cut will have you controlling the opposite. This helps build a greater picture of the intricate story as you view more sides of the events. It’s a simple addition that enriches the experience.
Because the player already has an idea of the overall shape of the narrative, chances are they will want to move through the game quicker to reach certain pivotal points and decisions. Though it’s easy to overlook on the first playthrough, subsequent attempts really highlight the slow movement of the characters and cumbersome controls of inspecting items.
Characters move like they’re in molasses which makes searching buildings extremely tedious, and it’s only worsened by the fixed-camera perspectives that flit and change every two paces. It feels like a point-and-click adventure with extra steps.
For those that play using more reasonable and logical dialogue options, a second playthrough will invariably result in picking the other, less rationale responses. In my second run, I wanted to try and piss everyone off and make everyone hate each other. I did this by picking the lines described by negative emotions.
Picking these emotionally-charged dialogue options resulted in some extreme lines that did not flow well in conversations at all. A sudden outburst chosen by the player is followed by a more serene and reserved line that is hard-scripted into the scene. This can create jarring and uneven scenes, where the emotional through line bounces up and down with no real logic.
On the topic of playing Little Hope with friends, there is a glaring issue when it comes to the quick time events (QTE). One player may receive a tutorial about how to use various QTEs and others won’t. This can lead to situations where one player must perform a QTE for the first time where the outcome is life or death having never been given an opportunity to “practice”. This can, unfortunately, result in some deaths that feel unfair.
While there are some problems with the design, narrative, and dialogue, overall, the story and experience offered in Little Hope left me rather impressed. The story was creepy and intriguing, and presented a lore-rich world about a town with a past steeped in the occult. For those savvy detectives, there are enough clues that one could piece together the narrative prior to the end, but even if you don’t manage to do this, it’s still a satisfying conclusion and another great entry in the Dark Pictures Anthology.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 30, 2020.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope
- Branching and twisting story with multiple outcomes
- Lots of player agency
- Good looking graphics
- Solid voice acting and music
- Creative multiplayer mode offers a lot of variety
- Dialogue can be odd and stilted
- Fixed camera angles can make movement tough
- Slow walking/interacting speed and cumbersome controls
- Predictable horror tropes
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