Trapped and isolated in the abandoned town of Little Hope, 4 college students and their teacher must escape the nightmarish apparitions that relentlessly pursue them through an impenetrable fog.
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Reviewed on: PS4 (Pro unit)
Also available for: Xbox One, PC
Cast: Will Poulter, Alex Ivanovici, Kyle Bailey, Caitlyn Sponheimer, Ellen David, Kevin Hanchard, Pip Torrens
Developer: Supermassive Games
Game Director: Nik Bowen
Screenplay: Dario Poloni
Last year’s Man of Medan introduced us to Supermassive Games’ Dark Pictures anthology series. It was a shorter, more contained interactive-movie than their previous work on Until Dawn and proved to be the most fun when played with others. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope sees some small refinements tighten up the gameplay experience, but mostly it’s the drastic change in setting and tone that differs this game from Man of Medan. Unfortunately, I found the cast to be a major step-down in quality.
A group of students, Andrew (Will Poulter), Daniel (Kyle Bailey), Taylor (Caitlyn Sponheimer), Angela (Ellen David) and their teacher John (Alex Ivanovici) who were on a school trip find themselves trapped in the middle of nowhere outside a town called Little Hope after their bus crashes. The driver is missing and an impenetrable fog seems to push them towards the town with no option but to move forward in search of the bus driver, or help of another kind. The roads are long and empty but things start to look creepy as they find symbols carved into trees; omens are left to warn off something in the forest and a doll sits silently in a circle of rocks. Suddenly, the group starts to feel like they may not be alone after all. When a strange girl drags them between their own time and a period when the witch trials where taking place in Little Hope they begin to piece together the dark past of the town and the connections it may have to them.
The game is set primarily in modern-day but there are also connections to a 1970 prologue family and you’ll be constantly having journeys to 1690’s Little Hope as you see events slowly take place, and many deaths ruled by the court as in the name of the church.
Little Hope is heavily inspired by the likes of Silent Hill as well as movies and games covering the Salem Witch Trials. On top of the drawings and dolls you’d find in a Blair Witch film, the game also features a lot more supernatural elements than its predecessor. Several demonic monsters chase you throughout the game and it starts to feel like a survival horror game — although the gameplay still plays out in a combination of quick-time events and character choices. One of the monsters stalks the group slowly with giant chains keeping its body down, while another darts quickly across the ground, each seeking to kill. A third has several metal rods riding through its body and looks like it came straight out of a Silent Hill project. Each of the monsters is chasing one of the group as if it’s the sins of their past come for revenge. They’re genuinely terrifying creations and although there are far too many jump-scares, even when I saw them coming, I still jumped. Of course, discovering what exactly these monsters represent I’ll leave up for you, but it may take you several playthroughs.
Will Poulter is your Shawn Ashmore equivalent for this game — the key celebrity face most people should recognise. He’s great and I’m happy to report more integral to the story than Ashmore’s character which I managed to kill in the first hour of Man of Medan. Andrew is an every-man, you can play him super-sweet or slightly bitter. But it’s in that everyman quality that you’ll find him the most endearing character in the group and the one you want to see survive the night. The rest of the cast isn’t as strong and overall I felt the characters in Man of Medan were better developed and most importantly, more fun to play. There are still some basic horror tropes in use here with Daniel as the jock stand-in and Taylor as his is-she-is-she-not girlfriend. The most interesting characters in the game come from the flashback sequences.
For better or worse the game doesn’t assume you have played Man of Medan last year and thus, leads to some similar pacing issues. The first hour of the game is a bit of a slog filled with middling attempts at jump scares while the game introduces each of its five characters and how you control the game. The Curator played by Pip Torrens once again is the narrator of your story and my complaints about his intermissions killing the pacing (as mentioned in my Man of Medan review) still stand. The tank controls have been cleaned up here and the QTE events are less punishing than Man of Medan making for an overall better experience.
You can still kill characters quite early in the game if you try and the characters I’ve managed to kill so far have all been in a beautifully grotesque fashion. The game also clearly lets you know now when you could have triggered a different event before a death if that character had of been played differently. The camera will zoom into the eye of the monster prior to the killing blow and display a lock and what emotion/characteristics were needed to have triggered a different outcome.