Supermassive Games exploded onto the scene with the incredible Until Dawn. It was a cinematic teen slasher game, with plenty of choices and was self-aware in how it emulated horror movies. The Dark Pictures is their next project, and each short title follows a separate story. Man of Medan was the first part of the anthology and was pretty successful. Little Hope is the next title and swaps a scary boat for a scary town.
Little Hope begins with a horrific accident in the 1960s that leaves an entire family dead. A quick cut to the present introduces you to the characters you will be controlling. John is taking his students Andrew, Angela, Daniel and Taylor on a field trip but a police roadblock forces the bus driver to take a detour towards the town of Little Hope, but before they reach it, the bus crashes. John leads his students towards Little Hope to find help, but the town does not want them to leave, things are not what they seem, and something is following the group.
Watch the Little Hope trailer below:
The opening certainly sets a dark tone and the modern-day character’s fear of their predicament is certainly apt but right out the gate things just aren’t right. The game goes for a more serious tone and while it’s disappointing, it’s a commendable choice. Yet characters make the most stupid decisions and without the wink to the audience that Until Dawn and Man of Medan made, it doesn’t hit well. As the characters make their way towards town, they come across glimpses into the 1600s, where witch trials took place. This world is dark and interesting and links with both the modern-day timeline and the timeline in the 1960s and this is where Little Hope starts to crack. For such a short run time, it tries to cram so much in and the whole narrative suffers as it reaches its poor conclusion.
Even worse are the characters themselves, they are boring. The black comedy of the previous titles is completely gone, and its absence is noticed. The writing seems broken too, a character is asked to check a room to see if it is clear and comes back a few seconds later, only to say they didn’t check. What? Moments like this pop up every so often and a second playthrough only confirms these are mistakes left in the game. The most interesting timeline is the 1600s and would have made for a far more compelling plot if the writers stuck to it. Each timeline reuses the same actor and besides causing confusion, just seems pointless.
Much like Man of Medan, Little Hope is a linear adventure game. You interact with objects and secrets along the path and solve simple puzzles. While hardly groundbreaking, it works fine. For combat and chase sequences, simple QTE’s push the scene onwards, again not innovative but it’s fine. Like Until Dawn and Man of Medan, choice in both story and dialogue take centre stage and it works excellently. Telltale’s games may give you illusions of choice but Supermassive Games nail it here. The story changes often enough to feel like you have an impact, but it is how the characters interact with each other that’s impressive. This gives plenty of room for replayability and the “bearing” system increases this further. This is simply just feedback of the choices you have made before and between this and the secrets page, there is always something missing, something that begs you to play again. Like Man of Medan, there is a co-op game mode for couch co-op and a “Movie” mode where up to 5 people can control each character. These options are great for a party session.
Once again, Supermassive Games show off their impressive use of Unreal Engine 4. It’s perfectly cinematic and the character models are excellent. Everything is well textured, and the lighting is perfect throughout. Voice acting is wonderful from start to finish, there isn’t a single weak link and Pip Torrens, predictably, steals the show. Oddly enough, the 1600’s accent opted for a Northern English accent and maybe it’s ignorance on my part but it felt quite jarring, though very well done. The musical score is quite subdued, and the sound design is decent, though unremarkable.
As stated earlier, the switch to a more serious tone really doesn’t work here, as part of the charm is lost. As expected, it looks great and is well performed and the gameplay is totally fine. Man of Medan had a significantly weaker cast than Until Dawn and this is an even bigger step-down. It doesn’t help that the story is complete nonsense, but it hurts more when you realise if they had focused on any of the three timelines, it would have been great. Inconsistencies and awful editing crop up throughout the game and it feels rushed.
There is a lot of great things here, the character interaction and choices are great, but are meaningless when the characters suck. It fails as a horror game too, each jumpscare is laughably predictable and not in the goofy way Until Dawn portrayed them as. Fortunately, this is a budget title and as an experiment into more serious styles for this genre, I hope Supermassive Games go back to the silliness for their next effort.
Dark Pictures: Little Hope was reviewed using a digital code purchased by the reviewer.
Publisher: Bandai Namco Developer: Supermassive Games Release Date: 29th October 2020 Reviewed On: PC Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One