Little Hope is Hell for no Reason
It’s time for the next installment of reviewing The Dark Pictures (2019–). Last time, we looked at The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan (2019). You can read that article here. Today, we’re discussing the next game, The Dark Pictures: Little Hope (2020).
When my friend and I finished Man of Medan, we were a little exhausted by the prospect of starting another game if it was going to be just as underwhelming. However, I was excited that the star of Little Hope was Will Poulter, so I was looking forward to his performance, if nothing else. Plus, the story seemed a little more my speed—witches, people getting lost in the woods, etc. Not knowing what we were getting into, we decided to give it a try.
If Man of Medan exhausted us, Little Hope pissed us off. By the end of this game, it felt like the entire purpose was just to put us through hell for no reason. This one is hard to review without spoilers, because the direction the game takes is so abysmal that it would be difficult to explain the struggle of playing without giving away some key moments, so be warned. This review is a drag on Little Hope, and I will be spoiling it so you don’t play.
The story follows three college students and two chaperones who survive a bus crash after being rerouted through an abandoned town called Little Hope. Upon waking up at the outskirts of town, several characters begin to see visions of the witch trials, where alternate versions of themselves experience gruesome deaths.
Like Man of Medan, the game is played in three acts, but the first act was so long that we began to believe that the entire thing would just be played all in one go. After several hours, we saw the words “Act II” show up in the corner of the screen. We both exclaimed, aloud, in unison, “That was Act ONE? Oh NO!”
Obviously, one of our main complaints about the game is that it was too long and convoluted. The gameplay followed a long-winded formula in which the characters would find a building in the town, be forced to explore, experience a jump scare, and then have a flashback to the witch trials. As the game dragged on, the effort of breaking into each place yielded minimal new or helpful information. I had suspicions about certain characters in the flashbacks from the start, and I figured out the villain of the witch trial sequence within the first few hours of playing. Just like with Man of Medan, I felt like the problem was obvious and we just had to continue playing despite having a hunch about the ending.
As the game went on, the separation between the future and the past progressively seemed to slip, and the group began to be h(a)unted by the ghosts of their dead doubles from the witch trials. Many, many times, a few characters split off to go explore or run away from a threat, got attacked by a ghost, and escaped with a flurry of quicktime events.
The later quicktime events, for whatever reason, allowed you to play as multiple characters in the span of seconds. For the entire beginning of the game, you played as the characters that you selected in the beginning, passing off the controller when the character changed. But suddenly, you were playing as several different characters—basically whoever was in the scene with you—regardless of whether they were actually yours to play or not. The way the quicktime events were constructed for multiple characters all of a sudden felt lazy and strange, and the sheer amount of quicktime events toward the end of the game was annoying.
I do want to give credit where credit is due—one thing I liked about this game was that it included graphics that warned you a quicktime event was coming. As someone who’s terrible with the whole fast reflexes thing, I really appreciated that.
However, nothing in the game could make up for the ending. Despite the fact that I quickly guessed the villain in the witch trials flashbacks, I couldn’t have fathomed the final twist. Essentially, with almost no warning or context, it turns out that the entire thing is a hallucination. The witches, of course, but also the modern day people. Practically the only thing that’s real is Will Poulter’s character, who has made up the whole ordeal in his mind. I suppose an extremely observant person might have guessed this ending, but it came as such a shock to us that it ruined the game. We wondered why we’d spent so long making decisions and agonizing over quicktime events only for the characters to die and then turn out to be hallucinations anyway.
We were so annoyed that we looked up the decision-making tree for the game, and it turns out that there are only a few key choices earlier in the game that even matter all that much in determining the ending. My friend was especially mad that the decisions we made had very little foreshadowing about their unavoidable consequences. It’s one thing to have a decision come back to bite you in a way you might have been able to suspect, but the “it was all a dream” ending felt so cheap and seemed like something we could never have accounted for in our decisions.
None of that is even to mention the awful graphics—the game is playable, but definitely not pretty. People fly through the air, mouths don’t move when they’re talking, and pretty much every save screen is some weird abstract shape that looks like they didn’t bother to place a background.
All in all, Little Hope was terrible, and we really hated playing it by the end. Still, we continued on to The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes (2021) and were surprised by what we found… Keep an eye out for more in the next installment!
The Dark Pictures: Little Hope (2020) Official Playstation Trailer