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Major spoilers for Little Nightmares II follow... obviously.
When I finished the excellent Little Nightmares II for the first time a few weeks ago, I had just one question: What the damn hell?
Okay, so that might be an understatement. That one, larger "what the damn hell?" was actually made up of a dozen or so smaller questions. Questions like why the world of Little Nightmares is the way it is? Who exactly is Six? And why can't I play through the bit with the mannequins in the hospital without a little bit of wee coming out?
As the credits on Little Nightmares II rolled, I was undoubtedly left with more of those questions than answers. Admittedly I found myself in a better position than poor old Mono, but I needed to know more. So I embarked upon a journey that would take as many as four emails in an effort to get some information from Tarsier Studios senior narrative designer David Mervik.
Like Little Nightmares II itself, Mervik's answers were dark, mysterious, and occasionally ever-so-slightly disconcerting. But from that darkness, some truths emerged. Read on to get the skinny on what really happened at the end of Little Nightmares II, the designer's thoughts on the phenomenal community of theorists that has sprung up around the game, and one of the biggest questions among fans: is this sequel actually a prequel?
So, that ending, right? It's fair to say Little Nightmares II's final moments feel markedly different to the first game with our lead character trapped and seemingly defeated. What was the thinking behind such a bleak fate for Mono?
Are the endings so different though? Couldn't you also argue that at the end of the first game, our lead character is trapped and seemingly victorious? I guess culturally we're more accustomed to seeing power and violence as a good thing; but still, I think it's interesting that Mono's fate seems bleaker than Six's.
What connects the protagonists of both games, and what makes them so affecting for me, is how they are shaped by the world around them, and how unavoidable this can feel. More even than their size and strength, it is this that underlines just how stacked the odds are against these kids.
The ending heavily suggests that Mono is always destined to become The Thin Man and this is an endless cycle. In other words, the two are one and the same. With that said, some fans also believe Mono is a successor to The Thin Man, it's a role that's passed down, and that they are actually two different people. Which is it?
It's all of that.
Well, okay then. That's that cleared up. One of the things we love about Little Nightmares is that it's a universe so packed with detail that everyone brings their own ideas of what it's all about to the table. Obviously, you guys know things the rest of us don't because it's your world. With that in mind, and without spilling any more than you want to, what the hell happened to make this world the way it is?
It's what you get when you spend thousands of years dodging that very question.
Do you have any favourite fan theories, assuming you keep an eye on that stuff? Any out there that are actually close to the "truth"?
I love that all these theories are out there, it feels so rewarding that fans have engaged with our approach to storytelling to such an extent that some are calling themselves 'Little Nightmares Theorists now! With all that said, however, I have to admit I try to keep a healthy distance from it, mainly because I wouldn't want it to colour the lore's natural path, but also because it would be too tempting to jump into a conversation and spoil it for everyone by saying yay or nay to their theories!
Don't forget, this is a world that takes real experiences and twists them into unfamiliar shapes, so what they have become here is as important as what they were. In that respect, as long as you can back it up with evidence, your theory is as valid as anything we'd call 'the truth'. Of those I've read, I mainly enjoy the patterns that emerge, the lines that are drawn between characters, and the sense that is made of the small visible fragments of this vast, chaotic world. It's a very human instinct to act that way.
A lot of fans believe that someone, some unseen threat, has been pulling the strings in the world Little Nightmares. Is this the case... and might we meet them one day?
That depends if I'm ever allowed to go out in public again.
Let's... move on. In one particularly shocking (but I guess maybe not that shocking at all moment) Six lets Mono fall to his doom. Whyyyy? Some fans think it's because Six was starting to struggle with her hunger and didn't want to eat Mono - what's your take?
That scene, and the ending that followed, elicited some powerful reactions from players, "rage-love" someone called it, which is as perfect a description as you can have.
Sadly, though, this is one of those instances where you have to just let people scream "Whyyyy?!" at you and resist the urge to answer. What I will say is that Six's perspective of this will be different to Mono's, and different again to the player's. Who knows why kids do what they do? They're thrown into this world that hates them and have to find some way to survive to adulthood. If we're happy to just sit back and watch this struggle, who are we to judge how they do it?
Who built the Signal Tower, and what was the inspiration behind it (both in terms of in-game lore and your IRL inspirations)?
The world of Little Nightmares doesn't work that way, creatures and places exist for a reason. In the first game, The Maw exists because the hunger exists, and here, The Signal Tower exists because the need for escapism exists.
Sure, in the game it beams out The Transmission to everyone's TVs, but it would be trite and wrong to say that it's only about the ubiquity of screens. It's inspired by this idea of the spectacle; this thing that delights you in order to destroy you, that corrupts the way you see the world and blinds you to the true monsters. We have centuries of inspiration for something so foul, you just need a good pair of sunglasses.
We'd love to get this cleared up: Is Little Nightmares II a prequel? Because the true ending definitely suggests that's the case, but the internet is tearing itself apart over it!
The internet has a tendency to do that, so let me be controversial and actually answer this question. The story Little Nightmares II does indeed take place before the story of Little Nightmares.
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