Game Review: The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope (PC)
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope follows Man of Medan, the previous game in the horror series. It swaps strange goings-on in the South Pacific for the eerie abandoned town of Little Hope.
The Dark Pictures Anthology was spawned from Supermassive’s PlayStation 4 exclusive Until Dawn. Little Hope, like its predecessors, is part-game, part-branching, interactive TV episode.
The series draws heavily on anthology TV shows such as The Twilight Zone and the UK’s Tales of the Unexpected. The game even begins with a very TV-style title sequence introducing our host, the enigmatic Curator.
The game starts with a catastrophic accident befalling a family in the 1970s. The story then switches to the present day with a bus, late at night, carrying four students and their professor.
Due to an accident ahead, the bus is diverted through the abandoned town of Little Hope. On the way the driver swerves to avoid a young girl on the road, crashing the bus.
The professor and his students find themselves forced to enter the boarded-up ghost town of Little Hope. They are looking for their missing driver and help. Trapped by an impenetrable fog they are not alone in the town, itself, famous for its witch trials.
I’m going to park details of the story right there to avoid spoilers. The plot doesn’t stray far from established horror clichés. Like Man of Medan, Little Hope is full of jump scares and supernatural occurrences that are pretty scary. The plot is a bit on the nose at times, but still offers some neat twists and turns.
The Curator who introduces the story and serves as the host for The Dark Pictures Anthology stresses that the tale is not complete. He advises, with caution, that it is up to the player to decide the fates of the various characters. During the game, The Curator interjects with suggestions on how you are doing.
The player’s choices throughout the game affect the interactions between each of the characters. The story swaps between the five main protagonists as the tale progresses. The player’s actions are not superficial in any way and very much affects how the plot pans out. Even conversation choices can change the dynamic between the characters.
As well as direct choices there are many sequences determined by quick-time events. I’m not really a fan of quick-time events, myself. At first, I found that these sneaked up on me in such a way that it was almost pot luck if I responded correctly. The game does give you a momentary warning that it’s coming. After a while, I did get the hang of it. I even found that the game doesn't punish the player for the odd indiscretion and only repeated failure tends to result in an undesirable outcome.
The game is packed with secrets to collect and photos that unlock video premonitions that offer a glimpse of what may or may not be. On one playthrough I found that I’d found and unlocked hardly any of these. Interestingly, one of the premonitions I unlocked seemed to be from the next episode of the Anthology, House of Ashes. These collectibles and the game’s multiple paths make replaying the game very appealing.
Once the game has been completed, the Curator’s Cut is unlocked, apparently giving players a slightly different viewpoint of the events of the game. Returning for a second go also seems to bemuse The Curator who reinforces that the story is very much in the hands of the player and their actions.
Like any good story, the tale of Little Hope stays with you after finishing the game. This makes it very hard to resist going back for another go just to put together the little details and foreshadowing that you may have missed the first time around. For a genre that usually consists of such linear affairs, this particular action-adventure game offers up a surprising amount of replayability.
The game can be played solo or via two multiplayer modes. A couple of players can play co-op online. Also, in a novel variation of couch multiplayer, up to five players can play the game, locally, each looking after a character- passing the controller when notified.
Like its predecessors, Until Dawn and Man of Medan, Little Hope is incredibly polished. Visually the game is superb. All the characters are very well modelled and animated, giving the whole thing an almost photoreal look.
The characters all walk naturally, although sometimes the action of the player controlling the character breaks this realistic movement with sharp movement inputs. It really can’t be helped, but considering how good the game otherwise looks, it’s really noticeable. I can hardly fault the developers, however, for giving the player control of the characters.
The game features the likeness, vocal talents, and motion-capture performance of British actor Wil Poulter in the game’s staring role. All the actors and voice talent in the game perform spectacularly, making their characters come alive. The more ghoulish occurrences in the game are also very well done. Hats off to the designers for conjuring up some absolutely horrifying imagery.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope will not be for everyone. If you are a fan of interactive novels and enjoy tales of the more macabre, Little Hope will likely satisfy you. If you like your games bold and brash, Little Hope’s careful pacing and character interactions may be a little too pedestrian for your tastes. Either way, Little Hope is another very well put-together interactive horror tale that left me looking forward to the next instalment.