Bandai Namco‘s The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan gave the series a lot to live up to. The stand-alone horror games rely heavily on a strong narrative and engaging gameplay. So how did the newest edition of the series fair? The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope takes everything good from the first game and amplifies it. The depth and twists and turns of the story led to hours of theory crafting. It also takes Man of Medan‘s less than enjoyable features and upgrades them to create an even better gaming experience.
DISCLAIMER: It goes without saying that this review is riddled with more spoilers. Proceed carefully.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Little Hope‘s story has easily become one of my favorites. There are three timelines that the game explores. 1692, the 1970s and the present day. Each timeline tells its own story while also playing into the stories of the other two timelines. Each of the five playable characters within the game appears in all three timelines along with other notable characters. While they may look the same, they are different people. I began my playthrough in the 1970s timeline. It works as part prologue and part introduction to the game’s upgraded mechanics. I was introduced to the idea that Megan had a connection to a dark form of magic. Megan continues to appear within all three timelines of the game bringing with her supernatural terrors. Of course, things didn’t end well and I watched as one by one the family met their demise.
For the rest of Little Hope, I played in the present day as Anthony, Daniel, Angela, Taylor and John. After a bus accident, I was left stranded in the town of Little Hope, unable to leave. The more I explored the town the more clues I uncovered to what was happening around me. It was very clear that the town’s history with witchcraft was holding me hostage. Something was watching me from the shadows and waiting for me to drop my guard before striking. The characters also had a strange and supernatural connection to the previous timelines as well. My goal became to survive until I was able to find a way out. During my exploration, I found items that transported my present-day characters to 1692.
In this timeline, Little Hope is being haunted by witchcraft and slowly the members of the village are tried for their crimes against God. Here my present-day characters were able to meet their doppelgangers and interact with them. I saw Megan again, now known as Mary, causing trouble for her fellow villagers. I didn’t realize until it was a bit too late that when my present-day characters spoke or interacted with their doppelgangers that the other 1692 people could not see or hear me. With Little Hope’s history of witch trials, they instantly looked like they were talking to a demon. This led to their deaths which then became demons I needed to escape from in the present day timeline.
On the long list of things Little Hope does far better than Man of Medan is upgrading the game’s mechanics. One major upgrade to come with Little Hope is in the form of quick-time events. In Man of Medan, I needed to hit the WASD keys as they flashed on the screen. This time around the QTEs had me clicking on a specific part of the screen before the timer ran out. Before an event went off, there was a notification to warn me, but even still these weren’t a walk in the park. Since my mouse was hidden on the screen, I quickly had to figure out which way to move it in order to get it in time.
This is a vast improvement while still holding on to the tension that comes with these types of events. But still, the QTE events still make Little Hope a bit frustrating. The game focuses heavily on building character relationships and choice which we discuss in the next section. I spent my entire playthrough making safe choices and keeping attempting to keep everyone happy by being nice and civil in order to make sure everyone survived until the end. But with just a few missed QTE events, I ended up losing two of the characters before the end. It is a bit disheartening to put in the work on the narrative side only to lose them to a simple mechanic.
Little Hope really dropped the ball when it came to movement. They ditched the WASD keys and focused on mouse clicking in order to move about the world. This was a bit frustrating especially when it came to moving into another zone. I found that I was constantly getting stuck on objects because my character would take the most direct route. I feel that this change was unnecessary and constantly tore me out of the immersion of the game as I tried to get to a certain spot only to have to move all about the screen first. Thankfully, any jumpscares that happened took place during a small cut scene so I didn’t miss anything happening around me.
It All Comes Down to Relationships and Choices
Similar to Man of Medan, Little Hope has a very robust relationship tree I could go down that could get complicated the further into the story. Depending on how I interacted with the other characters my relationships changed. I chose to play the game alongside a friend which further complicated the relationship charts. As the story progressed we each were in control of all five characters at different times. For example, when I played Daniel I chose to have a civil relationship with Angela. However, when my fellow gaming partner Wil was in control of Daniel he could make different decisions that weakened the relationship with Angela.
In single-player mode, it is easier to control how the relationships grow and dissipate because I am given control of everyone’s story and decisions. These relationships have a major effect on how the story progresses. Building a relationship between characters unlocks the potential for different story paths and even choices during events. For example, if Andrew and Angela’s relationship is great, Andrew will be given options to help save her. If they do not have a great relationship then there won’t be an option that would put him at risk to save her.
Little Hope also relies heavily on the choices I made throughout the game. While in control of Anthony, I chose to take a gun that I found in an abandoned house. This was something I didn’t tell Wil, but the Curator spilled that secret soon after. Later in the game, while being chased by demons from the past, I was given the choice to shoot one of them. Clearly, I felt like this was the best choice and took the shot. Right away, I realized that I had shot Angela, who had become separated from the group a few chapters back. Guilt instantly hit me as I was trying to make sure everyone made it to the end.
In the end, however, there are only three possible endings to Little Hope. But these three endings are all similar. Andrew, who is actually the bus driver who is Anthony from the 1970s timeline. He survived the events of the prologue while the rest of his family died. Angela, John, Daniel and Taylor are all figments of his imagination and the demons chasing them are actually Anthony’s demons. In the end, even if the others did survive, they fade away leaving Andrew by himself. The ending was both shocking and a bit anticlimactic. There were a lot of questions left unanswered that dealt with the supernatural side of the game.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope provides nearly everything I love to see in horror games. It has an in-depth storyline filled with mystery and suspense that kept me guessing until the very end. It brings about questions like how the young Megan seems to be able to use supernatural powers in the prologue. The letdown is that in particular, the ending leaves a lot of unanswered questions. But like many things in life, it’s all about the journey and not the destination. Little Hope is completely worth the playthrough to experience the story and relationships found within.
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