Supermassive Games is known for its cut-throat ability to kill each and every one of its characters without the blink of an eye, making each decision you make in its interactive horror games feel delightfully weighty. Fortunately for us, the latest entry in its Dark Pictures Anthology, Little Hope, looks like it will carry on this streak of gleeful anarchy.
Little Hope is set in the eponymous New England town, inspired by Andover, a town neighboring Salem. Andover, Little Hope director’s Paul Samuels tells us, had more women accused and arrested of witchcraft than Salem (Salem knew how to market it better, my New England-born colleague Jon Ryan tells me).It’s the witch trials that interested Supermassive, and will be explored in Little Hope. Little Hope takes place mostly in the present day, where five college students – including this entry’s bigger ticket actor Will Poulter – find themselves stranded in the town after their bus crashes, and a “mysterious fog” means they can’t leave (unsurprisingly, Supermassive cites Silent Hill as an influence).
What they experience in Little Hope, explains Samuels, is “paranoia, brutal executions, and the pursuit of redemption”. The idea is that when horrific things happen in a town, their residue sticks around. “One thing you will certainly discover is that all that suffering, all that malice…leaves a profound effect…it creates repercussions,” narrates the curator, who returns from Supermassive’s first Dark Pictures entry, The Man of Medan, in the reveal trailer.
At a certain point(s?) in Little Hope, the present-day characters are taken back in time to 1692, when the witch trials were at their feverish peak. There, they must witness events leading up to the trial and execution of a group of settlers who look exactly like them, and this is somehow all tied into a family in the ‘70s…who also look like them. There’s a lot going on.
Samuels says The Witch, Season of the Witch, and Blair Witch all helped weave Little Hope’s DNA, but less obvious psychological horrors like It Follows and The Omen were also an influence.
The latter was particularly evident in the demo I saw, which involved the ‘70s portion of the story in the prologue. Here, Anthony (Will Poulter) and his family, including exasperated mum Anne and deadbeat drunk dad James, are all tiptoeing around the ‘problem child’ in the family, a little girl named Megan. Anthony is more lenient toward her vague problematic behavior than his siblings, and often your choices while playing as him involved indignation or disapproval towards those who spoke of her badly.
But Megan is very creepy, in a very Damien-from-The-Omen way; there’s even an Ave Satani-esque soundtrack played during her scenes. She seems to be corrupted by an external, Captain-Howdy-like force, who compels her to do things like lock her mother in the bathroom, play with the stepladder her brother is standing on, and generally use what appears to be psychokinesis to cause all sorts of havoc within the household.
The creepy child thing is fun, if a little amusingly played out, but then, Supermassive has never been afraid to dive headfirst into well-worn horror tropes. The demo ended with you having to make the (less than agonizing) decision to save either your cool sister Tanya or your creepy sister Megan, but in this particular scenario, everyone died anyway. Again, the stakes are real, and all these characters are merely meat for the Supermassive grinder.
How the ‘70s connects with the 1690s and once again with the present day, is still very vague, but I already like how ambitious Little Hope feels with its settings, particularly after the somewhat uninspired locales seen in the Man of Medan. Supermassive has also promised that couch co-op and online 2-player modes will return, which were such fun in Little Hope’s predecessor.
And really, that’s what Little Hope is promising to be: fun. I’m increasingly enjoying how eccentric this anthology is, and how it aims to change things up tonally with every installment. Bring on the meat grinder again; I’m ready.
Lucy O’Brien is Executive Editor of Features at IGN. Follow her on Twitter.