I’m sure all of us at one point or another in our lives have wondered what our neighbours are up to, especially the weird ones that appear to want to keep themselves to themselves. We all have secretly wondered at one point or another if there’s something more sinister afoot, right? Well, probably not, but Hello Neighbor brings those fears to life. What if there is more to your neighbour than meets the eye? That’s certainly the case with Dynamic Pixels stealth-based horror game.
Hello Neighbor: Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4, PC
Developer: Dynamic Pixels
Release Date: 8 December 2017
Price: £23.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Hello Neighbor begins with a boy innocently chasing his ball down the street until it comes to a stop outside one of the houses. As he looks up at the building, he hears a woman scream and witnesses signs of a struggle. After taking a bash to the head, you come to and realise that the creepy looking neighbour with the wonderfully weird moustache has something to hide. In order to uncover exactly what that secret is, the player must break into his house and gain access to the basement he has locked up with a variety of blockades. This is the long and short of things with Hello Neighbor, but it is never just as simple as opening the door, grabbing a key and heading to the next bit, otherwise what would be the point?
The road to unlocking the door will not be a simple one, and you must jump through a number of fiendishly designed hoops and solve a multitude of puzzles before you are able to progress. The key might be hanging on a hook or sitting atop a table, but first, you’ll have to find a way upstairs to obtain it and to do that you might need to get into other rooms or locate other items. You might need a lockpick for one door and a specifically coloured key for another, and maybe get into the boot of a car or even change the flow of the water system to gain access to new areas. Hello Neighbor is unforgiving and offers some truly mind-boggling puzzles for you to solve, some of which will have you genuinely stumped for a considerable amount of time. It is fun for a while until it isn’t, and what starts out as something playful and intriguing quickly escalates into sheer frustration as you run around the house for the thousandth time looking for any clue as to what you should be doing.
As you progress through the story you will move between the games 3 acts, where your goal will change somewhat, but ultimately you will be searching the neighbour’s house for items to help you prod further into his home. Your other main objective is to avoid the man himself while doing this, which is far easier said than done in most scenarios. Completely aware of your total disregard for his personal space, the neighbour is constantly on patrol and never too far away from the player, although the game gives you a handy camera shake and change of musical tone whenever he is getting a little too close for comfort. At times it is genuinely scary attempting to stay out of sight or outrun the neighbour, but over time he becomes more of a pain or hindrance than anything else.
One of the most impressive things about the game is the neighbour himself and how the AI manages to learn from what you are doing. If you keep going into the house through the front door then expect to find a beartrap on the doorstep upon your next trip, and if you favour breaking in through a certain window then don’t be surprised to find a camera watching it when you come across it again. Though he’s not as intuitive as the developer would lead you to believe, the neighbour is capable of learning from what the player is doing and does a pretty good job of combating your next movement, which makes the achievement of sneaking around to find what you need a fulfilling one at times.
Obviously, in a game like this, a large part of the fun comes from trying to figure out exactly what to do, but this is made harder by a lack of in-game tutorial and poor button mapping that doesn’t feel designed with consoles in mind. With no in-game prompts, I ran around in the dark for some time until I figured out which button turned on the light of a torch, you aren’t even told how to run or pick up items at all unless you visit the main menu. Though the buttons are detailed in the main menu, a short tutorial wouldn’t have gone amiss. Furthermore, Hello Neighbor‘s button mapping makes no use of either the B, Y or X button on the Xbox One controller, instead, players will use the A button to jump and shoulder buttons to gather up items and throw them, which is extremely fidgety at best.
Hello Neighbor does well to create an uneasy feel, with a creepy soundtrack and appropriately designed environments. Both of which are accompanied by strange sequences that tell you a little bit more about the neighbour’s backstory, which seem to involve car crashes amongst other things, and sees you on a rollercoaster, being chased by a giant neighbour and other random or bizarre occurrences. The story of Hello Neighbor is a bizarre one to say the least, but it’s one designed for that very reason, to intrigue and baffle the player, whether you enjoy its outcome or not.
The first-person view means that the camera often struggles a bit. You can’t always focus on items that are underneath you, and other areas such as scaling ladders and jumping through windows frequently don’t work as they should. Additionally, Hello Neighbor also struggles with issues when loading in from a save or a “death” (when the neighbour catches you), where the textures take too long to load in, and the world can’t seem to decide if it’s night or daytime. The fact that the game has a whole area that you have to glitch into to earn some of the achievements shows that even glitches have their own benefits in the game, and it’s worth taking the time to search every inch of the world outside of its boundaries.
Hello Neighbor is a funny one. It takes a while to get into, while you figure out the controls and exactly what you are meant to be doing and once you do, it’s a mixture of exhilaration and frustration as you seek to stay out of sight of the neighbour, grab what you need and ultimately get to the bottom of his dark secret. It’s a fun but often painful struggle that sometimes tips more into annoying than anything else, especially when you can’t figure out what you need to do or the neighbour won’t leave you alone. If you enjoy real out of the box based puzzles, Hello Neighbor is worth a punt, and if you have the patience you will be rewarded, but with poor button mapping, bugs and a lack of in-game tutorial, it’s more of a slog than it should be.
- Genuinely difficult puzzles that require some thinking
- Nicely designed world with creepy neighbour and settings
- Clever AI that learns from what you do
- No explanation of control or guidance early on
- Puzzles sometimes leave you completely stumped
- Glitches and slow loading textures
- Poor button mapping