Swapping ghost ships and pirates for witch hunts and doppelgangers, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope blows past the standard set by 2019’s The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan to deliver a richer story, more detailed environments, and some truly unsettling visuals in the best cinematic adventure game since 2015’s Until Dawn.
Putting you in control mere moments after a bus crash (and an enigmatic prologue scene), Little Hope follows students Andrew, Taylor, Angela, Daniel and their Professor, John, as they attempt to understand, survive and escape in Little Hope – a seemingly abandoned town hidden deep in the Massachusetts wilderness, and thick with folklore of pilgrims, witches and devil-worship.
The story of Little Hope unveils itself with a real sense of control; a breadcrumb trail of visions experienced by the students not only pulling the narrative forward, but also introducing fresh dangers based in the horrific history of the town. You’re constantly given things to react to, ponder, and run away from, with the story ramping up the stakes wonderfully. It’s nothing groundbreaking, with cheap, recycled jump scares generally still being the primary spook (save for some wonderfully frightening monster designs), but Little Hope blends its mixture of dream logic and historical horror with confidence, while also deploying its limited group of characters in some interesting ways.
“…there’s more warmth here between the characters generally, so much so that you may actually want to save these people!”
It’s a relief just how much of a step up in quality Little Hope is over previous entry Man of Medan, after that game didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the new formula for many. The short-story anthology nature of The Dark Pictures series means developers Supermassive Games were able to pull things away from the sometimes-dull environs of Man of Medan and deliver a story with far more nuance, a mystery with many more questions and, frankly, a more likeable cast of characters overall. Little Hope delivers the motion captured performances of its cast in a (usually) compelling way, and there’s more warmth here between the characters generally, so much so that you may actually want to save these people!
When you’re not quick-time-eventing for your life, you’re picking through Little Hope’s lovingly crafted locales like cemeteries, museums and misty highways, flashlight in hand. Players who take the time to look around are rewarded both with extra story details and items that can help out later in a pinch (provided your reaction times can keep up). Dialogue choices also come in to play in determining how strong the relationships between the survivors are, which may translate into life or death decisions and reactions later down the line. Characters who like each other are going to fight harder for the survival of their friends, whereas resentment can breed a ‘look out for number one’ mentality. You can take a look at characters standing with each other at any moment in the menu, reflect on pivotal moments and choices – referred to as ‘bearings’ (like directions on a compass) – and check out secrets that you’ve found by scrounging around the game world.
Moments of true danger are few and far between in the first portion of the game, to the point where moments where we expected a QTE we simply watched the characters complete tasks for us. The game is a little more lenient when it comes to reaction times than previous Supermassive Games, making it generally easier than both Man of Medan and Until Dawn, but as things pick up, Little Hope has no issue putting you through some extended, harrowing encounters which can spell doom for multiple characters at once if you slip up.
Technically, Little Hope squeezed impressive performance out of our PlayStation 4 Pro just before we set it aside for the launch of the PlayStation 5 – dense fog blankets the town, solitary lights flicker through the mist, and subtle sound design means Little Hope performs best with all the lights off and the sound system loud. These games have long known how well they fit into a ‘movie night’ setting, and Little Hope can be played either alone, via online co-op or in a sort of ‘pass the controller’ group mode, where the game divides itself into sections and lets you know whose turn it is.
It may have taken a round to warm up, but The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is proof that Supermassive Games can pull off this faster, tighter form of storytelling without giving up good writing and scares. If you felt a little let down by the dank and dim Man of Medan, never fear, as Little Hope dances with the devil in all the right ways and is a fantastic return to form for Supermassive Games.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.