Hello Neighbor has finally arrived, and with it comes the endless hype generated since its reveal. This hype certainly did not help the game, as it was buggy upon release and has since received a lot of negative reviews. I started playing wondering if my own review would join the masses here, but I actually ended up enjoying the game.
Neighbor’s AI. The whole gimmick with this game is that each time the player is caught by the Neighbor, the Neighbor gets smarter. For example, the Neighbor got tired of me breaking in through the same window every time, so he eventually placed a bear trap on the other side of the window. When he got tired of me jumping through that window regardless of the bear trap being present, he ended up just boarding up the window entirely, preventing me from going through the window in the first place. It was an interesting mechanic, forcing me to change up the way I played on more than a few occasions. As the game’s defining feature, it is a bit underwhelming, but it is still a nice feature regardless.
The puzzle design. Upon starting the game, the player is just popped down right into the game world. There is no tutorial and no main menu. There is little in terms of direction, so it falls to the player to figure out what to do. The objective is to get into the basement and find out what the Neighbor is hiding, no additional help is provided by the game. As such, it can be quite difficult at times, especially later in the game when the puzzles are more intricate. All of this really goes to show just how well designed the puzzles are. Not only are they reasonably difficult, but they are really creative as well. I would be lying if I said that I did not use a walkthrough for a couple of the puzzles in act 3, where this creativity really shines.
Fun art style. The cartoony art style can be good or bad depending on what the player wants from this game. For a horror game, it was probably not the best choice. Those expecting so will be very disappointed. Even so, I thought the style was great for a game like this. Any sort of realism is quickly thrown out the window in act 2, so a style like this is really fitting and perfectly captures the atmosphere of the game. Despite this, the game can still be scary at times, especially when the Neighbor comes out of nowhere.
Lack of polish. Even after the patches, Hello Neighbor is still seriously lacking in polish. There are numerous bugs and other issues that I ran into while playing. I had heard of the bugs that the game suffered upon its release, but I at least expected them to be somewhat ironed out by the time I played, several patches later. In fact, my very first experience in the game was me trying to tip over a trash can only for it to somehow launch me into the sky, forcing me to fall to my death. A great first impression of what was to come.
Objects would oftentimes clip into each other, sometimes getting stuck in walls. At one point, I had managed to get the wrench stuck in a wall. The wrench is required to open certain gates, but luckily I had already used it to open these gates before it got stuck. Had I not, a complete level restart would have been necessary. Bigger objects would sometimes get suck in the walls as well, making constant rattling noises while stuck. I had a trash can get stuck in a door at one point and had to suffer the metallic noises it would make for the rest of the level.
It also is not just objects that can get stuck, the player can get stuck too. I had to restart a level at one point because I got stuck in-between several bushes and a door. Luckily, restarting a level from the pause menu only resets the player back to the start, leaving all progress intact, so I did not lose anything by getting stuck. The version I played on was 1.1.3, so hopefully these issues are fixed with future patches. The devs have been releasing patches every few days, so it might not even take that long.
Aside from the bugs, the game can also be easily exploited. I managed to skip the majority of act 2 by building a platform and jumping from it to get to a previously inaccessible door. I do not mind exploits such as this, but it should be mentioned regardless. I imagine that speedrunners would have a blast finding all of the different ways they can glitch themselves through the levels.
The storyline. The game’s story is purposely left ambiguous, with many fan theories as to what exactly happened throughout the course of the game. I am all for stories that make you think, but it just did not work here. The dream sequences and the whole shadow beast thing just felt so out of place with the rest of the game. The story tried to play heavily on the “horror” aspect of this game, an aspect that was already lost after the end of act 1, just when the story really started to kick in. A lighter, less serious story may have worked a lot better, considering how zany the game becomes after act 1.
Despite its bugs and storyline, Hello Neighbor is still a decent game. The puzzles are creative and a lot of fun to solve, the art style is good, and the Neighbor AI mechanic adds an additional layer to the gameplay. The devs have been constantly putting out new patches, so the bugs I discussed may not be bugs for long.
You can buy Hello Neighbor on Steam here.
I was provided a free review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.