I’m a complete sucker for a good witch story. Okay, that might be a little general; let me narrow that down to horror stories around witches to ensure that the Bewitched crowd isn’t all that stoked. In fact, let’s reduce that cone of interest even further.
I adore stories about the witch trials during the founding years of the United States of America. The Salem Witch trials, while maybe not being as globally devastating as other tragedies, feels unique in the trauma that it caused. It was an event caused by fear and distrust not of some group of people stemming from some foolish stereotype, but specifically by the person living next door because they happened to look strangely out of a window once.
It’s a stunningly dark period in history and one that I wish more stories attempted to explore. Hence you can imagine my excitement for the latest iteration of The Dark Pictures Anthology because Little Hope certainly presents itself as a game about the witch panic of the 18th century.
It achieves its vision with some fun, campy horror and interesting character-focused decisions, but drops the ball due to some uneven pacing, shaky voice-acting, and a truly disappointing ending.
Starting off with a bus crash, as so many “ghost town” horror stories do, Little Hope kicks off with a group of students and their professor stuck in the woods and surrounded by some kind of spooky fog. Your initial goal of “find the bus driver” very quickly changes to, “Survive the night” as your troop of meddling kids slowly uncovers the history of Little Hope.
Overall the cast is great, leaning into the tropes of campy horror movies and delivering some truly punchable individuals. It’s an awkward line to walk on and one I’m not sure developer Supermassive really got all that right. I can’t say I ever liked any of the characters in Little Hope, I just disliked some of them less which I’ll confess might be due to how I played it given that choices and consequences play such a large role in the game.
Angela and Taylor both prove to be insufferable at the best of times while everyone else feels very… wooden. Like they’re bored with the situation instead of actively being terrified. It’s not helped by the voice acting which ranges from decent to completely flat and devoid of emotion. Andrew, played by Will Poulter, is probably the worst at this. Dude sounds like he’s half-asleep whenever he’s saying anything even in the more desperate of circumstances.
Yet I was able to put that aside because while the modern-day narrative drags somewhat, what really kept me going were the flashbacks caused by the ghosts haunting Little Hope. All the characters in the 18th century Little Hope feel like actual people going through horrific circumstances. It’s a decent story, one that’s not inherently unique but stands apart from other horror narratives in video games as engaging with real-world subject to illicit some proper tension.
Little Hope is no doubt a creepy town but the game does rely an awful lot on fairly obvious jump scares to get its terror across,s which felt unnecessary given how effective the atmosphere. Once again Supermassive has created a story that’s rippling with innate creepiness and it’s enhanced by a slew of difficult decisions that more often than not focuses on the consequences of the character you’re playing as or with. You’ll always be able to discern the outcome of the game’s more important binary decisions but that kind of makes them harder to make, right? When you know that the choice you’re staring down will result in some kind of death or disadvantage no matter which side you choose, it makes it harder to decide.
Yet while the story was campy, goofy, and overall an enjoyable experience it certainly wasn’t without flaws. Due to the game’s insistence on continuously breaking up the group, which it obviously does for multiplayer purposes, the pacing often drops to a crawl especially when you’re stuck with characters you really don’t enjoy. This becomes most egregious in the third act of the game where it feels like the end just continuously keeps stepping back and padding the experience out. Oh, and the ending of the game is utterly terrible. Without going into spoilers, the ending reeks of writers trying to be extremely clever with an unexpected plot twist but instead ruins the entire story that precedes it. It undermines what actually ends on a fairly satisfying note even if it is a touch anti-climactic and completely unravels it to the point where I was genuinely disappointed.
Where Little Hope shines brightest is it’s multiplayer. Continuing on from Man of Medan’s “pass the controller” system, having your friends gather around and revel in the decisions is still a fantastic way to spend an evening. Again, the dragging pace does spoil some of the excitement but having every take control of their own character leads to some strangely unique story moments. Playing online is slightly less enjoyable simply because of a game with such an emphasis on interpersonal moments that are mirrored nicely with a group of friends around the TV.
Overall, Little Hope is a fun time. The story ends terribly and the voice acting is sketchy but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t invested in the ghost town of Little Hope. It’s not a horror game that’s trying to upset the player and make them uncomfortable, and that’s just fine. At the end of the day Little Hope fits into a category of “fun” horror. The sort of game that’s great to play once a year with some friends and then forget about it until next Halloween. Just maybe don’t go in expecting a satisfying conclusion to what is otherwise an engaging narrative.
Last Updated: November 6, 2020