What better way to have celebrated Halloween than with the release of a spooky game in The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope. It’s a survival horror game that has you jumping back and forth in time to figure out what’s going on in an abandoned town. But even with the creepy premise, does it hit the right notes? Well, the witchcraft doesn’t quite nail the spell’s recipe.
What’s It About?
Little Hope takes place in a town of the same name in New England. A small college trip finds its way here after their bus crashes just outside of town. Mysteriously, the town seems familiar in a variety of ways to the five playable characters. Little do they know, the town is rooted in the witch trials of the late 17th century.
As they venture into town to find signs of life, they come across only one living person. Otherwise, they are exploring abandoned buildings and encountering spirits and demons. Those encounters effectively portal them into the 17th century, where they find their doppelgangers. To further complicate issues, a family in the 1970s who looked exactly like these five characters. They must investigate the town to figure what’s happened and, eventually, escape. Or will they escape?
That’s exactly what you must determine, as the entire game is framed as a story you’re helping The Curator finish. He’s an entity that ties together the entire Anthology (which started with 2019’s Man of Medan). He’ll pop in on occasion to comment on your journey and potential paths.
Why Should I Care?
So here’s the premise on how this review goes down: I played through the game twice; once in a Normal Mode and once in Curator Mode. This gave me the opportunity to make different decisions and receive an adjusted ending, while playing some parts of the game from drastically different perspectives. I did not, however, play through the multiplayer, mainly through a lack of personal availability to play with a friend (lonely me?), so I won’t comment much on that.
In my original playthrough, I was engaged. I wasn’t sure where the decisions would lead me or what type of ending I would receive. Ultimately, I lost one member of the group. The decisions are sometimes tricky, as you sort of have to make the “right” choice when it comes to survival. Theoretically, you could get everyone killed. So in my Curator playthrough, I actively made different decisions and only had a minimally different ending, mainly because I lost a different person. Ultimately, the core ending seems to be the same but it completely undercuts everything that preceded it.
So knowing that things don’t really matter, it casts a bigger light over the problems the game has. It’s also a shame because of how much it wastes great performances, but those performances were also put together in such a manic way, it was hard to really care about any of the characters. You just don’t really have anything that ties it all up in a cohesive way, so the elements the game nails (performances, vibes, tone) just don’t make it something you should care too much about.
The mechanics of the game are fine, if not clunkier more often than not. You have a fair amount of time to make dialogue decisions, but the timing is odd for any action or combat decisions. For combat, you have to confirm you’ll take the action, then press the required button soon after. For other actions, you get prompted to press the required button, but can’t press it until the secondary prompt comes up. It’s not overly confusing, but it’s not smooth.
As for the storytelling and characters, the ending certainly undercuts everything, but going back and forth in time was interesting. However, the dialogue between characters wasn’t great. Perhaps I expected too much logic to be infused into the mix, but it wasn’t there. Characters would view premonitions or go back in time to see their doppelgangers and either (1) not say a word about it or (2) not completely represent what went down. That leads to so many problems where the characters very clearly know what path they should go down, but they are actively going in another way. They also tend to have attitudes that just didn’t sit well with me because it created too much unnecessary drama. For example, with almost no context for why it would happen, one character immediately unloads on another for having a bad attitude at the start of the game despite not saying anything to indicate one. That just immediately sets up this substory, that doesn’t really get time to flesh out, about conflict between the characters. The Curator mode actually makes things a little worse, as it cuts a lot of dialogue corners and just comes across as rushed.
What Makes it Worth My Time and Money?
You basically have a Telltale decision-based game with the production value spiked to 11, but with none of the heart and cohesion. There’s definitely a nice package presented, but when you dive into the details, you spend most of your time walking around with nothing happening, occasionally taking time for characters to yell at each other about things they’ve found answers for but fail to recognize. It has a lot of great pieces, but just doesn’t really do enough to tie it all together. Plenty spooky, but higher surface level. And finally, the ending is just a complete injustice to everything that came before it.