There is no good reason why Little Nightmares 3 cannot have couch co-op
This year's Gamescom Opening Night Live presentation had some heavyweight contenders in the form of Mortal Kombat 1, Sonic Superstars, Crimson Desert,...
This year's Gamescom Opening Night Live presentation had some heavyweight contenders in the form of Mortal Kombat 1, Sonic Superstars, Crimson Desert, and Black Myth: Wukong, but it was relatively reserved when it came to surprises and reveals. This was made clear multiple times by Geoff Keighley prior to the start of the show.
However, it was not completely devoid of surprises. One of them was the excellent "Thank Goodness You're Here," which ultimately became my favorite part of Gamescom, and the other was "Little Nightmares 3." I adored the first two games and their blend of platforming, puzzle-solving, and understated storytelling in a creepy-burtonesque world. Therefore, a third game that offers all of that with a cooperative feature seemed like a fantastic evolution for the series.
The reveal trailer got me excited about what Supermassive could do with the formula and how the cooperative mode could impact things. However, a non-interactive demo presented by Bandai Namco left me confident in the new approach. The showcased footage took place in a sandy area called Necropolis, where the new protagonists, Low and Alone, trudged through an abandoned city where all the residents had turned to stone.
Although another player has been added, Little Nightmares 3 immediately felt familiar as Low and Alone made their way through the quiet, grimy streets, solving physics puzzles, assisting each other in climbing with crates, and opening doors with oddly large keys. However, this time around, the puzzles sometimes require the involvement of two players. For instance, one of them may need to hold a switch to reveal platforms for the other to cross.
None of the puzzles I saw in the demo seemed to be difficult, but there were some clever moments that got me excited to see more of the cooperative mechanics in action. My favorite was when Low and Alone were attacked by flying beetles and had to use their unique weapons together to defeat them. Low used his bow to bring the creature down, and then Alone finished it off with a swing of her wrench.
This puzzle and some other moments in the demo have convinced me of how well a Little Nightmares game can work in co-op mode. However, the most impressive aspect of Little Nightmares 3 is how well Supermassive has managed to capture the unmistakable creepy atmosphere of the first two games, which are undoubtedly the series' strongest points. I had feared that adding another player would take away from the horror and turn everything into a joke. Yet, as Low and Alone froze in fear while a gigantic baby stared at them and followed them through the city, I knew everything would be fine, as the lump in my throat revealed.
After my initial impression of Little Nightmares 3, not only did I have a newfound fear of babies, but I was also excited about playing it with my non-gaming roommate and seeing their reaction to the in-game version of the chef. Unfortunately, that won't be possible unless I buy another console and two copies of the game. Game director Wayne Garland confirmed to Eurogamer this week that couch co-op is not an option in Little Nightmares 3 and the game can only be played online with a friend.
This is a huge missed opportunity and something that has dampened my enthusiasm. Cooperative puzzle games like this are always better when you're in the same room with the person you're playing with. Whether you're discussing solutions or taking the controller away from them when they don't know what to do quickly enough, it just works best when you're together. Yes, I'm a real joy to play with, thank you very much.
Games like Unravel 2 and It Takes Two have already shown me in the past that this is the case, but couch co-op fits even better with Little Nightmares 3 since it's a horror game. I don't want to hear my co-op partner screaming through the microphone when a terrible creature is chasing us. I want to see those reactions in real-time, just like when watching a horror movie. Supermassive as a developer should understand this, especially since they've already offered such great local multiplayer options for The Quarry and The Dark Pictures.
Nothing I saw in my demo seemed to provide even remotely a good reason for that, as Low and Alone were almost always on the same screen, even when solving puzzles. I imagine there will be sections in the game where they are somewhat more separated from each other, but even copying the Lego games and setting up a split-screen for those moments seems like a better option than having no couch co-op at all.
I hope that the backlash against this decision and the strange justification of "atmosphere and immersion" will lead Supermassive to reconsider this approach and try to add local co-op in time for the game's launch next year. If that happens, then Little Nightmares 3 has the potential to be something truly special.