Video game “little hope”: the free decision

Little Hope" is about a family tragedy. The horror lies in the pressure to lead the story to the best possible ending.

The dialogues of the characters in "Little Hope" influence their state of mind Photo: Little Hope/Supermassive Games/ taz

Films that dabble in interactivity are appearing more and more often, like "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt vs. The Reverend" on Netflix most recently. At the same time, games have established themselves in the gaming world that bring a certain film character with them. While the interactive movie offers at most a few options with mostly marginal effects, in games with an interactive story, even small actions have enormous consequences for the course and especially the end of the game. At least those that take interactivity seriously.

The developer studio Supermassive Games, which set new standards in the survival horror genre with "Until Dawn" (2015), is known for the trinity with which the gameplay influences the course within a given framework story. After "Man of Medan" (2019), "Little Hope" is now the second completed story in the "Dark Pictures" anthology series for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

And it even has a "movie night" mode that invites you to experience the approximately five-hour story with several players. The characters in the story can be divided among themselves and controlled alternately. Together on the couch or especially Lockdown-friendly online.

In a disturbing prelude, the players meet the Clarke family in the 1970s, who dies in a tragic fire. Probably caused by a foster daughter hurling her doll into the flames of the gas stove. Or did it fall over on its own?

A way out of the ghost town

So far the players are powerless, but from then on it counts: The game jumps into the present, where a bus with three young and one older student together with their professor gets into an accident, when on the street with "Little Hope" suddenly a girl appears, who looks confusingly similar to the foster daughter. It soon becomes clear that the small group of travelers also looks like the rest of the Clarke family.

As you search for a phone or a way out of the eerie ghost town, it’s a matter of watching for clues. You interact not only with the gloomy atmospheric environment, but also with each other. In conversations, you can choose between several dialog options, which in turn have an effect on the characters’ state of mind and their relationships.

Here, the game benefits from the closeness to life of its characters: By developing sympathies, the pressure grows to lead the story to the best possible ending for them. The tension is constantly high, not only because of the numerous scare moments and "quick time events", but also because overlooked information in decisions such as who to rush to the aid of in a dicey situation can end fatally.

Potentially deadly are especially the conflicts of the travel group from another time level. Apparently, the fates of the travel group were already linked during the witch burnings in "Little Hope." Like demons, their counterparts appear and drag them back to the 17th century again and again for short sequences. Again, the little girl seemed to play a fatal role when she accuses several family members of being in league with the devil.

Deliberate horror cliches

But "interactive" is not only the game’s story, but also the way of playing. It makes the most sense to play together: Not only because this way you don’t have to carry the burden of decisions alone, but because the discussion about the right options is what makes up the actual gaming experience. Which progression is good? Should you carry a randomly found weapon to defend yourself and the others? Or could an altercation within the group end fatally that way? And, more importantly, what does the objective actually look like? Would it be possible to escape the time vortex? Is it a matter of redeeming the demons or defeating the girl? Is it evil – or is it possibly the circumstances in which it lives?

"The Dark Pictures Anthology" deliberately plays with horror cliches, but as is so often the case, there is something deeper behind it. The resolution is exceedingly well thought out. The details are there to justify the ending, but unobtrusive enough to remain suspenseful until then. As is so often the case, the horror is greatest when the problems are not as foreign to us as they seem.

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