You may remember Hello Neighbor as a small indie alpha from 2016 which circulated for a while in the various let’s play communities. Since then, the youtubers have moved on, and the lifecycle of this game seemingly came to the end. Or at least that’s what I’d thought.
As a horse half beaten to death, Hello Neighbor stumbled back onto the scene with a full release. I suggest taking this statement with a grain of salt, as it has already been updated several times due to the number of bugs and seems to be one of the forever in progress titles. I have pondered upon the question why would the developers even bother at this point, since anybody attracted to the game’s concept would have already purchased it. The investment of further time and resources into its development seems as a waste. Still, the game is apparently a complete product, or so would the developers want us to believe, thus we shall judge it as such. I will attempt to contain my doubts to the minimum and see if the game is worth more than an awkward chuckle.
Hello Neighbor can be described as a stalking simulator. Your 2 feet high character witnesses an implied kidnapping, murder or possibly a rape, through his neighbor’s window. Naturally, he decides to investigate. The objective of the game is therefore very clear – find what’s in your neighbor’s basement while avoiding being caught. This proves to become progressively more complicated, requiring utilization of different tools and not so apparent “loopholes”, such as the necessity of getting caught in order to progress. But that’s not all. After the completion of the objective, a story arc emerges – the game continues in several acts, each focusing on a different “kind of relationship” with your neighbor, along with a new house to invade. The additional houses and an angle to the story are quite experimental in their nature, which I find worthy of admiration. Overall, the level design, including the story, is the strongest aspect of the game.
Not the Greatest of Experiences
With that out of the way, we can only go downhill. As much as I praise the level design, I must condemn the horrible difficulty progression. I seem to be one of many players who found that due to the increasing size of the levels and the “getting caught” mechanic relying on your proximity to the neighbor, each level decreases in difficulty. Yes, you heard it here first, the AI is rubbish and the core mechanic of this game relies on you being close to your neighbor. I would not even address this, if it weren’t made out as a big deal by the developers. The claims of a smart and learning AI are lies as far as I can tell. The paranoid psycho simply roams around, spams traps and occasionally spots me based on proximity, in many cases even through walls. All considered, not the greatest experience, since any amount of skill will not help you. Thus, the game while being admirably new and experimental, the game falls flat on its face due to failures in implementation of its core mechanic.