Reviewed on PS4
Imagine the mechanics of a Telltale game but with gorgeous photorealistic visuals, seems like an instant classic right? That’s what Supermassive Games, developer of the massively successful Until Dawn tried to replicate with Little Hope. While their effort was certainly in the right direction, they forgot the most important element of those games that made them so good and memorable: the story.
In a game where gameplay is minimal and the main focus is on storytelling, all eyes are understandably on the tale itself, but unfortunately, they don’t quite deliver in this aspect. The lore-heavy story that spans across three separate timelines results in a confusing mess that’s neither well put together, nor particularly interesting. This is such a wasted opportunity considering the immense potential of the Salem witch trials of the 16th century which could have delivered a genuinely nerve-wracking plot.
Let’s get one thing cleared first, this is no Until Dawn. It doesn’t have the charming personality or humour that made the former so popular. It instead takes itself too seriously which frankly doesn’t work out in the game’s favour. The story in the present has you playing a group of college students and their professor, who get stranded in the outskirts of an abandoned town after their bus crashes on the way to their field trip. In an attempt to find their missing bus driver and to call for help, they confidently choose to take the seemingly worst possible decision: to go further into the town during the middle of the night. Why did they think that was a good idea? Because abandoned ghost towns “totally” have working phones just lying around everywhere. To be fair, characters in the horror genre of any medium tend to have bad logic during key decision-making moments.
The name of the town accurately sums up everything you need to know about it: Little Hope. Back in the 70s, the town was bustling with families and qualities that made it worthy of ‘The American Dream’. What was initially real estate’s hot property quickly lost its lustre once the factory in the area, which was its main source of income, was shut down due to declining profits. There exists a family within this timeline who are doppelgängers of the characters you control in the present.
The timeline that has more of an overall bearing however, is the 16th century. It’s the events that happen during this age that can become a deciding factor to what happens to your character in the present. This interwoven nature of the story never pans out and as a result the characters remain underdeveloped throughout all of them. With that said, some characters did manage to win us over despite all this.
The main antagonist and the final plot twist were candidly exceptional, we just wish the same level of consistent quality was present during the whole game. The story was the weakest part of the package, which left the overall experience feeling rather mediocre.
You’ll be spending most of your time in the game watching your characters develop relationships with each other. This is in no way a complaint, rather we love feeling that gush of tension in games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Life is Strange, where every response feels like life or death. The issue here is that these conversations tend to be pretty inconsequential to the story and even if you play a character in two polar opposite ways in different playthroughs, they don’t really end up upsetting others more than they originally did by just their mere presence.
The game relies on quick-time-events during moments of peril, and this is how the parts of action play out. They mostly work out well although, we did face an issue once where the keypresses didn’t get registered during a sequence and this led to us losing one of the characters during our first playthrough. However, since this only happened once, we can assume that it was just an unfortunate bug, but this can be a cause for frustration for some since you can’t really restart from the last checkpoint. It is only what you do during these moments that can determine whether your character lives or dies, the decisions you took for them throughout the game doesn’t really influence this result. This breaks any illusion of choice that the developers wanted to provide.
Despite the game lasting only about four hours for a single playthrough, it still manages to feel like a drag at times. You’d think that the short run-time would bring you faster to the action and that it would be filled with the best moments that stick with you the most after any game. Sadly, this isn’t the case here and the action is extremely limited. Most of your time is spent just walking around and it draws comparisons to Death Stranding in this regard. This discourages you from going through a second playthrough, which is exactly the opposite of what they were aiming for.
The game does also include light exploration, just the standard things that you would expect in adventure games. Finding all of these little hidden pieces wouldn’t take you much time because of how narrowly the levels are designed. Some of the pieces you collect tell you more about the past, while others unlock premonitions about the future. Neither help your characters much during the playthrough, but they’re great for those who want to explore more of the game’s secrets.
Largely there’s more room for improvement in how the gameplay mechanics work, and we hope future instalments will feature a more robust system where our choices carry more weight.
The visuals this time around have gotten a significant upgrade compared to the previous entry in this series, Man of Medan. The cinematography truly shines here and it would be unfair not to commend them to the ranks of the best movies, because they are very much on par with them.
The visuals always look great and the actors have done an exceptional performance even during those scenes without any dialogue. The mocap is some of the very best we’ve laid our eyes on yet, and captures even the micro-expressions with vivid detail. This is a game where not just the eyes, but even the eyebrows tell a story and is an absolute treat for those who pay attention to the finer details.
The reflections were fantastic as well, giving us a taste of what the next-gen could look like with ray tracing. They’ve done some interesting things with the lighting as well, considering how most of the game plays out in the darkness.
The jump scares will leave true horror fans feeling incredibly disappointed. They get more and more predictable as you progress through the game, and are pretty much the same ones over and over again. In fact, they were so repetitive that it had even some us with the faintest hearts desensitized to it by the half point.
What further limited the visuals were the environments; this time around they had a generic setting as compared to the quite unique one in Man of Medan. The developers didn’t really push any boundaries to innovate with this and that rendered the exploration stale and the atmosphere somewhat dull. However, this has more to do with the quality of the setting itself and we’re sure this team would be able to pull off a more daring one with much finesse.
The audio in the game can be best described as mediocre, this is in large part due to the inconsistent writing. Sometimes it’s as brilliant as a top-of-the-line Hollywood flick, and at other times about as good as a middle school play. The voice acting was delivered outstandingly and the actors were only limited by what they had to work with.
The background score didn’t add much to the terror or make the long stretches of walking any more interesting. We recommend playing with a friend to avoid boredom during these sequences.
Grab the Popcorn
The best way to experience Little Hope is definitely to play with friends. There are two ways you can do this, one is online co-op which is pretty much what the name suggests. The second way is what they call Movie Night. This is a mode allows you to pass the controller and play locally, and is a ton of fun.
Imagine movie night with a group of friends or your family on Halloween night. This mode provides richer experience that can get everybody involved and the simple controls are a boon that ensures that anybody can easily participate. Once each member picks out a character they want to control you’re pretty much set. This works well thanks to the multiple playable characters and all of them having roughly the same amount of screen time. You end up learning a lot about each other from the choices you pick and this will be a unique memory that you will cherish for ages. Seriously, we need more couch co-op games for the new generation!
Little Hope provides an experience with minimal action and has a few good moments at the end that makes it deserving of a single playthrough. An enjoyable co-op mode becomes it’s saving grace that is best experienced with a group of friends and family rather than playing solo. The potential of the lore isn’t fully realised here and that’s a huge missed opportunity. We’re still on the lookout for the developer’s next hit that’s as memorable as the cheeky Until Dawn.
Would you consider picking this up for your next movie night? Let us know in the comments. For more on gaming, click here.