I was first introduced to Hello Neighbor many years ago when all the YouTubers were playing it pretty much all the time via the free Alpha version from the developer’s website. Since then, it’s been Greenlit, Kickstarted, Published, put into the Xbox Early Access program, and finally released onto the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and even mobile devices! Developer Dynamic Pixels have really pushed to get this game out on every device under the sun with the help and support of their publisher, tinyBuild.
However, the reviews upon the launch for the multi-platform stealth ‘horror’ game weren’t quite forgiving with many of them criticising it’s controls and inventory issues. It’s been a few months, I’ve completed the game, and it’s now part of the Xbox Gamepass for all subscribers, so let’s take a look and see what I thought of the game considering I’m not the biggest fan of this particular genre.
Everyone knows the story of Hello Neighbor unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, as you couldn’t look at YouTube without seeing someone talking about or playing the game. However, for those one or two of you who don’t know what the ‘plot’ is, I’ll keep it brief.
Our protagonist is a young kid who is about to embark on a rather crazy ‘adventure’. Your neighbourhood seems to have a few issues with people going missing recently, yet your parents seem to think it’s fine to leave you home alone and let you wander around the streets playing with your ball… Anyway, you’re out playing with your ball when it lands in your opposite neighbours garden. As you head on over to collect it, you hear a noise which sounds like a scream coming from the living room! As you peer into the window, you see the old man seemingly attacking something (or someone) as it makes a lot of noise, only to be then locked inside his basement. He sees you, you run, stupidly your curiosity gets the better of you!
Your challenge, in Hello Neighbor, is to break into your neighbour’s house and find out what dirty little secrets he has hiding within that basement of his! This is accomplished by utilising a lot of inventory puzzles as well as sneaking around without him realising where you are and even smashing things to cause a distraction. One thing you need to be aware of, there are many ways to complete each puzzle/act, which is a great help as it’s very easy to accidentally ‘lose’ a key item and never see it again. So, as you can approach things in various ways, it’s not the end of the world if you accidentally hold a key, stick your hand through a door, and then throw the key inside the locked room (which a friend of mine actually did)!
That’s basically act one. Act two, without spoiling things, is the opposite as you’re now trying to get out and back to your own house. Act 3 is where things get really crazy and the game decides to mess with you as it introduces some rather annoyingly hard side-missions as you try and get back into the house, only this time you’re a young adult. Finally, the end segment is just flat out strange and fantastical. I have a feeling the last part of the game didn’t actually ‘happen’…
Out of control!:
So, I guess we should address the elephant in the room first of all, one of the biggest things a lot of people had an issue with – the controls. Hello Neighbor started life as an Early Access title, it still feels like one today, three years later. The controls aren’t as tight as you’d hope and require in a game full of platforming and fiddly inventory puzzle mechanics. As such, it’s very easy to miss-jump, slide all over the place with the floaty controls, glitch though items and doorways, and possibly make your run impossible. Or at least it makes you think you’ve messed up and can’t do anything but restart the act.
As I mentioned earlier, sure, you can accidentally throw items whilst your hand is strangely poking its way through a locked door like a ghost, thus allowing you to losre things in the unknown and make them unreachable if you happen to press the wrong button. However, Hello Neighbor isn’t an A to B type of game. Sure, there are some things you must do in each act in order to progress or unlock certain things, but there is more than one way to skin a cat, so they say. When my mate threw a key through the door then gave up, he didn’t realise it was for another door, a door you can bypass by walking through a hole in the wall, so the key was useless. I also lost an item in act two yet realised there were about three or four ways to complete the level.
So, yeah, it’s still quite buggy and the controls leave a lot to be desired, but it’s not the end of the world if you cock it up as there are a few ways to win.
Let’s address the second complaint quite a few people had with Hello Neighbor, the inventory. You have four slots and you can’t store things in your pockets and empty your hands. You literally have to have something in your hands at all times until you pick up another item. The issue with this is that when you combine the fact you’re always holding key items which are crucial to progressing the story, with the fact the controls are a bit fiddly, this can lead to some rather unfortunate accidents, as advised above. One such segment, in act three, has you using an umbrella to glide around the place whilst keeping a few items on your person as well. If you throw these into a place you can’t reach – head on over to the menu and hit restart!
Another point, which I didn’t really have an issue with but some did, was the fact you can only hold four items at a time and you never know what you need. For example, I was carrying around a couple of keys in act one for a very long time yet in the end, I never even used one of them. It was just sat there taking up my precious inventory space. It’s very different to your standard adventure games where the protagonist can shove everything, including the kitchen sink, into their pockets as they discover an item they picked up a few hours ago is just what they need to solve a puzzle. No, in Hello Neighbor you’re having to remember where you throw the items you don’t think you need any more, just in case things change and you suddenly need that tiny soldier or shovel.
To be honest though, I personally thought this mechanic, or lack of, made the game more stressful and intense – in a good way. It meant you had to be careful with what you do with your gear and also remember what was where, just in case. It also makes the game a little more realistic as you’re clearly not Mary Poppins with your bottomless bag. Although, that’s the only thing that is a little realistic in this crazy game!
So, what do you actually do in Hello Neighbor? If you’ve seen the old Youtube videos from when the game was in alpha, it’s similar but it now contains a lot more content. The first two chapters revolve around breaking and entering via any means necessary which will see you having to seriously think about what you need to do and how you’re going to go about doing it. Truth be told, I had to look up a guide a few times as I was playing it for hours with no idea on what I was supposed to be doing! I was running around like a headless chicken as I just couldn’t see what the game wanted me to see.
One such example of this was in the first act. It began with a cutscene which showed me where a key was – I wasn’t paying attention though, so for almost 90 minutes I had no idea what to do. All I did was run around and thrown garbage bags at the neighbours head! When I did figure out what I had to do, I couldn’t get to the place I had to so I thought I was doing it wrong and went exploring again. Finally, I looked it up and I was right, I just didn’t realise you had to use boxes to help you jump higher because the initial ‘tutorial’ was pretty poor. It took me about 25 minutes to realise you could actually pick things up!
Too hard or too easy?
The final thing I’m going to moan about is the difficulty. The neighbour seems to have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a moth (surprisingly the animal with the best hearing in the world). His encounters aren’t scary as they are borderline annoying and a distraction. The music changes when he sees you, you can hear him running up to you, and the deaths don’t do anything but inconvenience you as you keep all of your items you’ve found. The only setback is you’re returned to the starting point of the act and the neighbour will have repaired any windows your had smashed. So, for the first two chapters, where it’s you vs him, the game is surprisingly relaxed and kind of easy, other than the rather obscure solutions to the puzzles.
However, once you hit act three, everything changes. Not only has the neighbour changed his whole house around by adding a rollercoaster and about three more floors, but the game decides to throw you some really, really irritating ‘puzzle’ rooms. Now, I love my puzzles and I don’t mind games trying something new by ramping up the difficulty, but these were borderline rage quit material, especially the classroom segment. In this part, you’re in a classroom with a load of mannequins. When the whistle blows, they go behind their desk and the teacher attacks anyone who is walking around. At this point, you have to hide in the lockers. When the whistle blows next, the dolls run around and chase you if they see you. One hit and you have to do it all over again. You can’t back out or get any help either.
This one segment must have taken me about 2-3 hours to complete! I’m not a fan of stealth games and hiding to avoid people/things. So this just frustrated me. Although, I thought the whole game was going to be like this from the start but up until this point, the neighbour was like a ‘My Little Pony’ in comparison to the students and head teacher!
Looking past the fiddly controls (which you get used to), the floaty movements, the interesting yet obscure puzzles, and the ramp in difficulty within the mini-games in act three, I actually enjoyed playing Hello Neighbor. I know, that’s probably hard to believe as it seems like I’ve been in rant overload since the very beginning, but if you look past its unpolished mechanics and controls, it’s not a bad puzzle game. I wouldn’t call it a survival horror game, I would say it’s more a full-on puzzle game with mild stealth elements – until you get to the third act where it gets more intense and crazy. Sure, when you’re in the basement there are some moments which could technically make you jump as you turn a corner and see the shadow of someone watching you, but it’s nowhere near as creepy as >observer_ for example, which is also on Gamepass on the Xbox One now.
What I found enjoyable were the multiple ways you can complete an act or puzzle. On the flip side, the lack of any hand-holding or even any hints led to frustration more than enjoyment yet delivered a lot of satisfaction when I finally figured out what I needed to do. If I wasn’t reviewing the game then I don’t think I would have finished it, but I persevered and I made it to the end credits a few weeks back and looking back on it, I’m glad I did. The extra challenge was welcome but a bit too little too late as the game itself should really have gradually got harder with the neighbour himself in my opinion.
Hello Neighbor is a rather interesting puzzle game with stealth and ‘horror’ mechanics present. This is another game where I’m on the fence when it comes to recommending it. It looks okay but still feels like an Early Access title with its controls and overall presentation. However, I did get enjoyment out of figuring out what I needed to do and pissing off the neighbour by throwing things at his face over, and over again. I think the game may be a bit mild for hardcore fans of the survival horror genre, but also a bit too reliant on stealth and running away for the casual gamer.
There will be a set group who loves this game, especially if you have seen it before and want to try it out for yourself. Just don’t go into it thinking it will be delivering AAA standards as you’ll be disappointed. Think of it as an obscure puzzle game where you’re being chased by a grumpy old man and you’ll get what you pay for. Also, as I said before, it’s now on GamePass so try it out if you’re a subscriber!
I’ve just seen that the prequel to the game, Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, is out in a month. I’ll be interested to see how that differs from the original game.
- The game does have its moments where it gets a little creepy
- The puzzles are rather obscure but satisfying to solve
- Multiple ways to overcome each act
- Can feel unpolished and a bit like an Early Access game (I know it was one, but it still feels like one)
- The difficulty ramps up in act three without much warning
- No hand holding (can be good or bad) so it's a bit confusing as to what you have to do
- The controls take a while to get used to and the inventory management (or lack thereof) annoyed quite a few people
- It's possible to throw key items into unreachable places causing a possible restart