Little Nightmares II released last month on the 11th, and since then I’ve taken the time to not only engross myself in this new story, but also replay the original.
This is not only due to the fact this prequel/sequel has been eagerly anticipated — which is a topic we’ll get onto later — but also the fact that Little Nightmares II builds on the great work the original did with its hard to place narrative, disturbing world, and complex characters who speak with single commands. Let’s get into it.
Even more nightmarish than the last
Little Nightmares II is, in every way, superior to the original. Combat was not part of the original game, but this time around, we’re fighting against moving hands, manic doll children and the first game’s protagonist Six in her monster form. The feeling of needing to get out alive has never felt so vivid and desperate in this world.
While we still have boss fights where hiding and running away takes up the majority of the encounter, brief moments of timing your attacks and finding weapons to protect new protagonist Mono and the now computer-controlled Six adds another level of adrenaline in each chapter.
Alongside the new combat element in Little Nightmares II is the use of a flashlight to avoid certain monsters, and a throwing mechanic that can be used to solve puzzles. These new additions spice up the gameplay but keep it feeling faithful to the original.
The inclusion of televisions as both a narrative and platforming element are cleverly utilised, and the overall ominous and eerie atmosphere is heightened here significantly over the first — as evident with a mannequin-filled level where you’re alone in a hospital.
The game has been criticised by some for some minor glitches and awkward controls, the latter of which feel a little more problematic on the Switch version. But despite this, it’s worth the 8 hours or so for an initial run-through, and if you want to return to the nightmare, you’ll still have hats to collect to 100% complete the game, and shadow distortions to find to unlock the secret ending.
Additionally, the game is filled with neat design choices and little details that hint to certain revelations. The way we are introduced to its main characters foreshadows later significant moments, such as a music box located in Six’s room where we first find her, and the TV next to Mono when we start playing as him. The latter is especially notable, since this may hint to Mono’s time travel ability — the subject of much discussion and many fan theories! But we’ll get onto theories in due time.
Amazingly, the cover art of the Little Nightmares II is, in fact, clearly showing the game’s antagonist, the Thin Man, towering over our leading characters, with a TV behind him that suspiciously shapes his head into what appears to be a paper bag — much like the one Mono has on his head!
These neat nods to the truth are thrilling to notice, and is just one reason to dive into the series to appreciate how much thought has been put into it over time. But if you’re reading this, then I can safely assume that you heeded my spoiler warning and have already played the games, so we’ll get into the astonishing story details now.
When expectations are exceeded
Now we get to my favourite part of discussing the game – the narrative. Little Nightmares II takes a different approach compared to its first game despite the story still following Six’s journey.
We now play as Mono, who finds himself protecting Six after taking pity on her; he distracted her attempts to escape from the first boss, the Hunter. In the initial sequences, we see that Six has been trapped and left alone for a lengthy amount of time the Hunter, indicated by the many marks on her room’s wall. She is understandably distrustful and fearful of others, even as Mono approaches her. But understanding that she can survive by joining Mono, we witness a beautiful and caring relationship develop.
We feel the connection between the two leading characters since we see clear displays of affection and consideration between them, even without any words uttered — helpful gestures such as Mono showing visible anguish when Six is taken by the Thin Man, and Six showing appreciation for Mono coming back to rescue her from the bullies and being crushed by a couch.
Therefore I feel we can all agree on how much of a massive blow and unbelievable shock Little Nightmares II’s ending is. The sheer audacity of how Six betrays Mono in the game’s tragic twist is genuinely upsetting, and makes for one of the most memorable moments in recent video gaming history.
This moment effectively pulls the rug from right under us and makes us face Six for who she truly is. Up until this point, our perception of Six as this new character Mono is that she needs us to be her guiding hand, her knight in shining armour — or knight with a paper bag on his head to put it more appropriately.
We have been Six before and participated in a part of her journey. We therefore have her back and want her to succeed in whatever her goal may be. In Little Nightmares, she eradicated the Guests, defeated its leader, the Lady, and freed everyone from their confinements. But on the other hand, throughout her adventure with Mono, characteristics of our supposed hero become increasingly apparent as her true colours are shown without any uttered words or exchanges of dialogue — but instead through her actions.
As Mono is now our projection into the game world in Little Nightmares II, we feel loyal and protective of Six. The game sets up their friendly dynamic immediately, with a button dedicated to calling to one another, and the option to hold Six’s hand — which was the game’s selling point in its demo for me, no lie). Even though we see the endearing and charming development of a trusting friendship blossom, it was never meant to be — and the tragedy of it will not be quickly forgotten.
It’s hinted at all along the way — from the first game and all throughout the second — that Six is actually not so worthy of our protection. In the first game, several instances of her cruelness are shown briefly, from using other cages containing children as platforms to propel her out of the Janitor’s room without attempting to save any of them, and consuming a Nome due to her uncontrollable hunger instead of accepting the sausage they were offering.
This is further backed up by experiencing this Nome’s journey leading up to his transformation by the Lady in the Secrets of the Maw DLC, hammering home how tragic the death of what originally appeared to be a throwaway character’s truly is.
In Little Nightmares II, even more instances occur, such as Six being the one to encourage Mono to shoot the Hunter dead, severely beating one of the bullies, and rubbing her hands together above the fire that is burning the Doctor. Six clearly has a questionable moral compass and her mental state seems problematic — which can be understandable when you consider her unfortunate and toxic surroundings as shown in the spin-off comic series.
The game tricks us into believing in this friendship and trusting Six, with the countless amount of times she saves Mono when he jumps a large gap, to pulling him away from the TV when he teleports into it as he reaches to the door in the hallway. And despite Six’s presence helping the new game feel considerably less “lonely”, the ending is gut wrenching for portraying how truly unforgivable and amoral Six is and always has been, leaving us feeling just as cold and alone as Mono.
She comes across as a victim, but at the same time also as an anti-hero. While she did good deeds in the first game, she still caused harm and we have yet to determine her true intentions. We may very well never know the full truth since the developer, Tarsier Studios, has confirmed that Little Nightmares II will be their last game in the series. However, we could always see more under Bandai Namco — or perhaps through other spin-off media.
A heavy hitting end to it all
There are plenty of theories about the games, so let’s first set the groundwork on what are confirmed facts as of Little Nightmares II’s conclusion.
Mono is definitely the Thin Man, setting up a paradox, as this means two Monos somehow exist. What is his goal? It seems to be to split up his younger self and Six, because the young Mono is the one to release the Thin Man’s ability to teleport, with his one true objective being to retrieve and lock up Six.
By doing so, he tears her shadow self out, which can be viewed as the evilness that resides in Six. The secret ending confirms we play as the now empty and soulless Six in the first game’s events, since we see Six’s stomach growling — which it never did throughout Little Nightmare II’s run. We can interpret this as her being “empty” inside.
This moment also confirms that Little Nightmares II is indeed a prequel, with the developers confirming this and its secret ending showing Six arriving at the Maw before the first game’s events begin.
This supports my personal head-canon that the first person Six encounters is actually the Thin Man — it’s a hanging man, in a room where everything looks distorted and long, with eye symbols on the doors and a hat similar to the Thin Man’s located nearby. Alongside this haunting image is a reminder of the TV song, with lyrics which feel fitting to the Thin Man’s fate. On top of that, the lyrics highlight the fact that Mono’s name could well be short for “monophobia” — the fear of being alone. “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s hung / Don’t leave me”.
Back to Little Nightmares II, the intense moment of Six letting go of Mono features a significant amount of time showing the pair looking at one another, seemingly paused in their actions.
It is speculated that Six recognised Mono as the Thin Man since the bag is removed from his head at this moment only. But my preferred theory is that with the significance of the Eye monster being the true main villain of the series, we have established that both Six and Mono are victims. Not only did this monster warp Mono into the Thin Man, but it could also have influenced Six’s betrayal. This would always and forever keep them in this loop of supposed revenge on one another.
The monster is seen when locking up Mono to morph him into the Thin Man, and symbols of the eye are shown not only throughout Little Nightmares II, but in the original too on doors, peepholes and in rooms such as the one with the hanging man mentioned before.
This monster has barely been explored in any great detail — but let us not ever forget how it traps Mono in their realm for such a length of time that he fully transforms into the monstrous form of the Thin Man. He can only ever be free by his younger self reaching the hallway door he sees and transports to through the televisions.
All this suggests that the Thin Man is merely a puppet of this imposing monster, and the kind, brave and heroic Mono can never truly be saved. Both Mono and Six will forever be trapped in an endless loop.
Covering the full range of theories out there about the series would make this article triple in length, therefore I feel it is appropriate to encapsulate my closing thoughts on Little Nightmares II in short here.
Six’s story continues to become increasingly intriguing, but still feels unfinished as of now. Her true intention in her journey, her reasons for causing the damage and why she did what she did will hopefully be alluded to in the future, as she currently appears to be a morally grey main character.
While Mono is undoubtedly a victim who will forever be in our hearts, Six’s actions have left us with more questions after Little Nightmares II. I’m hoping for some more DLC, or at least a continuation in some format; there is evidently so much more to be seen not only in this dark and disturbing world, but in the story of Six.
In the meantime, I have some more hats to collect!
Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on them. This is at no additional cost to you and helps support Rice Digital!
- 9 reasons to be excited for Cupid Parasite - September 27, 2021
- Waifu Wednesday: Naomi Misora (Death Note) - September 15, 2021
- The balancing act of bad endings in the otome genre - September 13, 2021