Last month, Swedish developer Tarsier Studios released Little Nightmares II on Switch and other platforms. The sequel to the team's previous horror-themed puzzle-platformer (which arrived on Switch in 2018 as Little Nightmares: Complete Edition), this second adventure follows Six and her experiences with a new character as they creep past enemies and try to survive in a chilling, unforgiving, yet strangely beautiful 2.5D world.
Tarsier was formed in 2004 and the team's credits include significant contributions to Media Molecule's LittleBigPlanet series and, more recently, the excellent Nintendo-published The Stretchers. Little Nightmares II is another fine addition to their growing catalogue and we recently caught up with senior narrative designer David Mervik to discuss the its development, the studio's way of working, and future plans.
Nintendo Life: For anyone who perhaps hasn’t played the original game, can you set the scene a little and tell us how Little Nightmares II picks up the story of Six?
David Mervik, Senior Narrative Designer, Tarsier Studios: The first game was the story of Six and her attempts to escape a terrible place filled with terrible people. In Little Nightmares II, you play as a new character, a boy called Mono, who has to work together with Six to survive the strange power of The Signal Tower.
How did the idea for the sequel develop? Has it changed or evolved much over time?
It begins with us getting hooked on an idea, something that gives us energy and inspires us to push ourselves into new places. We always start with a core theme in Little Nightmares; in the first game it was ’hunger, greed, consumption’; in this game, the theme is ’escapism’ and its many forms. Once we have a theme we love, we use things like concept art and lore to construct a story that explores this theme in the best way possible. We work in a very iterative way, so things naturally evolve over time, but the focus is always on how to best tell the story, so it tends to be more tweaks here and there than any huge, unexpected changes.
in the first game [the theme] was ’hunger, greed, consumption’; in this game, the theme is ’escapism’ and its many forms
Would you say the first game is ‘required reading’ to get the most out of the sequel?
These are pretty much self-contained games, so you can play and enjoy it with no prior knowledge. Of course, they do take place in the same universe, and you’ve met at least one of these characters before, so if you have played the first game, there’ll be plenty of rich details to get your teeth into.
Were there any specific influences – gaming or otherwise – that you had in mind while developing Little Nightmares II?
There is nothing specific that we are trying to mimic or recreate. If I had to count the things that have fed into this game, it would be a list of about 10,000 things per person. That’s just how influences are; they sit there in the recesses of your mind and can pop up anywhere throughout the process when you are working on a particular idea. It also differs depending on who you talk to. Something I write into the lore might be influenced by something I read 20 years ago, but that won’t be the same thing that influences a level designer, or composer, or gameplay programmer. The coolest part of working with all the talented people at Tarsier is that we inspire each other way more than any outside influences could.
Having brought the original game to Switch (as well as The Stretchers, which we enjoyed immensely), you’ve built up some significant experience with Nintendo’s hardware. How did the Switch port process compare to that of the previous game? Any lessons learned or new challenges this time round?
I can’t speak to the porting process, but I can say that even with a bigger world, new gameplay and an AI companion in the mix, this game is phenomenal on both the big and small screen.
How does the Switch version compare to the experience on other platforms? Are there be any exclusive features?
There aren’t any specific features for the Nintendo Switch version of the game, but just being on Switch is a unique feature for us, because you can play Little Nightmares II in your scary location of choice — or under the bedcovers if you’re anything like me! The game looks absolutely phenomenal on Switch and we can’t wait for you all to find out for yourselves.
The game was delayed from last year into February 2021. How easy has it been for Tarsier to adapt to new ways of working brought about by the pandemic? What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of making progress under these unusual conditions?
I think for us, already having a strong digital infrastructure, the transition to working from home was a lot less problematic than for other organisations. Still, our studio thrives on the energy we get from hanging out with each other, so we’ve had to be very creative in finding new ways to feel that togetherness when out there working in our little bubbles. It feels weird to miss your colleagues so much. I’ve not experienced that before.
You’ve worked with Nintendo previously on The Stretchers – is a future collaboration something you’d be open to? Did they approach you to publish that game?
The Tarsier Door is always open! Our focus is always on the game at hand, which in this case is Little Nightmares II, and making sure this thing we’ve poured our heart and soul into gets into as many hands as possible, and makes those hands very happy!
Will Little Nightmares II be getting DLC like its predecessor? Do you have more ideas for adventures (well, nightmares I suppose!) with Six?
We’ve recently released the first two chapters of a series of digital comics made by a company called Plastiek. They tell the stories behind some of the other children that have sadly found themselves in this terrible world. We’re thrilled with how these comics have turned out, and are very excited to see how the fans enjoy them. As far as other DLC goes, our focus [has been] firmly on getting Little Nightmares II out into the world, and maybe taking a well-earned breath or two!
Little Nightmares II will be Tarsier’s third release on Switch. Are there plans for a fourth yet?
The Switch is a wonderful console. [smiles]
Our thanks to David. Check out our Little Nightmares II review to find out our thoughts on the game, or experience it below in sparkling video form with the lovely Zion if you'd like to see it in action.