Since Halloween is still fresh in our minds, now is an excellent time to dim the lights and settle in for The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, Supermassive Games’ latest excursion into interactive terror. As with its like-minded theatrical brethren, Little Hope provides dialled-in scares and gigantic leaps in logic that will leave you either scratching your head in confusion or chuckling under your breath.
This may sound like some sort of brutal take of what Little Hope has to offer, but on the contrary, this review will shine a light on the game’s many high points despite its baked-in shortcomings. Although it doesn’t come close to hitting the heights of Until Dawn, it’s light years better than the disappointing first installment of the Dark Pictures Anthology franchise, Man of Medan. Little Hope doesn’t make any bold or surprising strides in the horror genre, but it does use some well-worn conventions to produce something fun.
Things kick off with a spectacular bus crash caused by an unexpected late night detour, bickering from the people aboard the bus, and yes, a mysterious little girl who suddenly appears in the middle of the road. By now, folks piloting automobiles should anticipate the appearance of ghostly children on deserted roadways, but this particular driver apparently hadn’t kept up with the times. As you might have guessed, the bus skids off the road, flips and screeches to a halt. Death and destruction follow, right?
Well, not quite. Before we can completely process this scene, we’re kicked through time and treated to a dysfunctional family and, subsequently, an unexpected house fire. But was this all part of a dream that a college kid experienced when he was knocked out during the bus crash? And if so, why does everyone aboard the bus (sans the driver, who vanishes without a trace) look exactly like the people in the dream? The four students and their hard-headed professor certainly fight like relatives who can’t stand the sight of one another, but does that prove a connection to the dream? What about the visions the bickering survivors keep having as they make their way toward Little Hope?
All of your questions will receive one answer or another over the course of the experience, which retains Supermassive Games’ penchant for choice-based adventure. Like Until Dawn and Man of Medan, this spooky interactive horror flick presents you with dialogue options and quick-time events that help shape the way the story unfolds. For instance, disagreeing with the professor about heading to an abandoned town to look for a telephone (nevermind that common sense says that phone doesn’t exist) will result in a decline in your relationship. And these actions will have far-reaching consequences; if you irritate the professor too much, he’s going to get in your face at every turn.
This opens up the game for multiple playthroughs, though your decision to do so will be determined by how much you can stomach the characters. That said, watching them react to stupid situations never ceases to amuse (see the bit with the unplugged telephone for a prime example).
Like most horror movies and video games, Little Hope doesn’t have a very sympathetic batch of protagonists. With the exception of Andrew (portrayed by the always enjoyable Will Poulter), I went out of my way to make them as despicable as possible, which honestly wasn’t that difficult. The biggest problem with the characters, and Little Hope as a whole, is that their actions don’t seem to have a very profound effect on the overall story. Sure, some of your decisions will have an impact (both good and bad) on where you’re headed next, but after two playthroughs that I felt were pretty different in terms of decisions and character motivations, Little Hope didn’t really change that much. It’s still a very fun ride while it lasts, but I doubt you’ll return for more than three attempts.
One issue that plagues the game involves the way scenes often skip around, cut to black, or seemingly don’t fit together as well as they should. After some conversations or encounters with the town’s ghostly entities, the screen will abruptly cut to black, only to pick up again with either a slight time jump or a transition to another group of characters. It occasionally feels like a poorly edited movie, and when things start ramping up after an admittedly slow start, these hiccups can effectively take you out of the story. I’m sure piecing together a branching narrative together has its challenges, but making everything flow from one moment to the next is essential in building suspense.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope weaves a familiar tale of witchcraft in a town straight out of Silent Hill, but it still delivers exactly what you’d expect from this type of adventure. The jump scares do their job, the performances are serviceable, and the game looks fantastic – so it’s a shame that the writing and a few technical hiccups often get in the way. And while Supermassive has yet to match the brilliance of Until Dawn (one of my favorite horror-flavored adventures of all time), Little Hope shows that the developer’s Dark Pictures Anthology series isn’t a lost cause. If you loved Until Dawn but thought Man of Medan was a disappointment, give Little Hope a chance to bring you back into the fold. As long as expectations are kept in check, this adventure should provide an evening’s worth of spooky fun.
This review is based on the PC version of the game. A review code was provided by Bandai Namco.
Little Hope doesn't deliver the tightly written, well-paced scares of Until Dawn, but it's a much better, more focused experience than Man of Medan. If you can overlook so ridiculous writing and a few technical shortcomings, it's a spooky adventure that's work a look.