Review

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope review

4/5

Supermassive's latest interactive horror shows a sharp and spooky improvement over Man of Medan

dark pictures little hope video game 
Credit: Supermassive Games

When I completed Supermassive Games’ ghost ship horror adventure Man of Medan, back in March, I was desperate for more.

In fact, I’ve always wanted more from the British video game developers. Since fighting for the virtual lives of the characters in Until Dawn (2015), I’ve awaited their new releases like a vampire waiting for blood.

It stands to reason that, when they finally announced the next installment from the eight-part Dark Pictures Anthology would be released on the eve of Halloween, I would book the entire day off work to play it.

And, since all Supermassive Games are best-played in co-op mode, I convinced my fiance and siblings-in-law to trade a holiday day for a fright night, too - perhaps underestimating the effect horror games might have on people who don’t seek out scares for fun.

I mean, on the surface, Little Hope doesn’t seem all that spooky. It’s a character-driven survival adventure in which a creative writing class’ field trip veers - literally - off course after their bus crashes in the New England town of ‘Little Hope’.

Credit: Supermassive Games

Like the company’s previous titles, the gameplay requires little to no gaming experience. It’s a volatile ‘choose your own adventure’ experience; you make choices for your characters, and those choices will help you, hurt you, or kill you.

In the aftermath of the crash, the five survivors are enveloped in a thick fog - metaphorically and literally - which seems to pull them further and further away from reality. Visions of witch trials, deadly doppelgangers and, as one vandalized sign so elegantly suggests, every reason to abandon hope of escape.

The scares are a slow-burn to start, but the storytelling (much of which happens when characters are dragged into the 1600s) makes up for it, teasing you with apparitions and dialogue that offer more than you might imagine. 

Within 30 minutes, I felt I’d sussed the plot out, but I was very, very wrong, and it became clearer and clearer as the story - and scares - progressed.

The game is designed to wear you down, weaving jump scares in with an expertly-crafted horror score and spine-chilling scenery. 

The atmosphere is, in a word, anxious - and it’s impossible not to internalize it. Particularly when faced with Quick-Time Events (QTE) which, more often than not, lead to a horrifying death.

Personally, I found Little Hope’s do-or-die events easier to survive than Until Dawn’s and Man of Medan’s, and I expect it will be a welcome change for those who critiqued previous titles for impossible QTEs. This time around, the game prompts you to get ready for spells of button-smashing a second before they start, meaning you can take a second to find your X- and Y- button or steady trembling hands.

Two characters did meet an untimely fate on my first Little Hope playthrough, but that’s a fair improvement from my sole survivor in Man of Medan.

Credit: Supermassive Games

Still, it’s not enough for everyone. Haunted by the stress of a difficult mid-game QTE, my brother-in-law decided he’d rather keep his hands over his ears than ever touch the controller again.

All in all, it took about five hours to complete, and the frights - and sights - kept us entertained the whole way through. A credit to the visual artists, really, as it takes thoughtful lighting design and attention to detail to be aesthetically pleased in the dark.  

Comparison to Supermassive’s previous titles is inevitable and, in that respect, I’d say it almost takes the top spot. Man of Medan was a brilliant concept, somewhat poorly executed, while Until Dawn was a brilliant concept, perfectly executed. Five years on I expected a bit more from Little Hope, but it still left me terrified, tantalized, and desperate for the next chapter, as per usual.