The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope is the next instalment in Supermassive Game’s choose-your-own-adventure horror experiment. The anthology is a follow-up to the design philosophy established with 2015’s Until Dawn: play as a cast of characters as they endure a nightmarish scenario, making literal life or death decisions, performing heart-pounding quick time events and scouring the environment for collectibles to piece together a mystery. This format worked with Until Dawn and yet as I discovered in my review of Man of Medan the first entry in the Dark Pictures Anthology took several steps backward. Little Hope is a fitting name for this latest episode as it aptly describes how I felt going in.
The story of Little Hope revolves around a group of college students who, after surviving a bus crash, find themselves trapped in the foggy, abandoned titular town. The bus driver has gone missing, there’s a strange little girl running through the woods and echoes of the areas witchy past keep bubbling up out of the gloom.
The narrative is somehow even more nonsensical than Man of Medan and the dialogue goes beyond clunky and dull throwing all logic out the window. Character interactions in Until Dawn were corny in a teenage slasher movie kind of way, yet here it’s just awkward and unnatural. A character will get absurdly angry at another over nothing, then two minutes later will confide in someone: “I hope I can make it up with Angela…”
In one scene, as the group approaches a clearly abandoned, boarded-up police station, the college professor says “this is our best shot, there could be a working phone and maybe even the bus driver in here.” Firstly, why would you expect to find a working phone in such a place and second why the hell would the bus driver be chilling there? It’s like zero thought has been given to the rationale of the characters, why they feel the way they do, and how actual people would attempt to get out of this situation. Nonsense.
That’s to say nothing of the structural issues with the plot. The game meanders from one group of characters to the next with no real sense of purpose or momentum. A duo may split off from the rest for no apparent reason, then try and break into an (again, clearly abandoned) grocery store for an equivalent lack of reason. They go in, find nothing, meet no-one, there’s no development whatsoever outside of an obnoxious jump scare, then we’re back to yet another stretch of foggy highway. Rinse, repeat.
Running parallel to the present-day narrative is a sequence of visions/flashbacks to the 1600s and the witch trials that were happening at that time. Inexplicably both the dialogue and acting is less noticeably bad in these sequences and yet every time you return to the present, whichever characters experienced the flashback have to painstakingly explain to the others what they just saw. Also, each one of these sequences is initiated by the stupidest kind of jump-scare imaginable. There are so many of these cheap shocks and they get so repetitive that not only do they lose all impact they become actively irritating.
I don’t usually like to talk spoilers, however, in this case, it’s warranted. I’m going to briefly mention vague things about the ending so if you want to go in totally blind, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. Alright. You’ve been warned! This game has one of those plot twists that makes the entire journey seem pointless. I won’t go more specific than that but if you played Man of Medan you can probably guess the kind of thing I’m referring to. All those choices you made that could well have lead to one of the character’s death? Meaningless. All those mysterious visions of the past? Irrelevant.
There are a small number of elements worth praising here. The graphics are undeniably impressive with the facial capture being a particular standout. The character of the Curator who turns up in between ‘chapters’ of the tale to sort of check-in with your decisions, offer sardonic advice and quips at your expense, is effortlessly enigmatic. I mentioned in my review of Man of Medan that the Curator is one of the few things that would make me want to check out future entries, and that remains true here. There are also some quality of life improvements, the controls, in general, feel more responsive and there is a brief warning when a quick time event is about to happen so you’re not caught without the controller in your hands.
I suppose it would be possible to enjoy this if you play it with friends, laugh at how bad it is the same way you would watch a tacky horror movie, yet even then it’s difficult to recommend. Any entertainment to be had from the gruesome death scenes or bad dialogue is far outweighed by the tedium, frustration and general lack of cohesion. The Dark Pictures Anthology was an intriguing project that had potential, and yet two entries in I have little hope (indulge me) that the third episode will stick the landing.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope was reviewed on PC with a code provided by the publisher.