Hello Neighbor was an ‘interesting’ indie game in 2017. What originally started off as a good idea on paper ended up being awful in execution.
|Console||PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, iOS, Android|
|Genre||Survival horror, stealth|
|Release Year||2017 – 2018|
|Purchase (PC)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (Xbox One)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (Nintendo Switch)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (PlayStation 4)||Purchase from Amazon.|
Disclaimer: if you’re a young child or a concerned parent, you shouldn’t be here. This review is full of profanity and inappropriate jokes. It was written by some random jerk, not a professional. If this doesn’t bug you, read ahead.
Lordie, what have I gotten myself into this time? Seriously, what the hell is going on here?
Allow me to explain. I’m not a big fan of Let’s Play videos. There was a point where I watched Markiplier religiously, though I eventually stopped after realizing how his videos seemed to be the same shenanigans every time. I have nothing against the man himself. In retrospect, Let’s Play videos are only as interesting as the commentator. And when the commentator stops being interesting to you, well… you’re just watching some random stranger playing games. And that’s no fun for me.
And how is any of this relevant, you ask? Well, I somehow missed a certain game called Hello Neighbor and how it was this majorly hyped indie game that ultimately failed to meet basic expectations. It was widely talked about among LP’ers (including Markiplier), though seemingly not many other places. I came in pretty damn late to the party since I learned of this game’s existence long after the hype train had passed.
What drew me in to Hello Neighbor was its art direction. It’s fairly reminiscent of Pixar movies (kind of like with the game Among the Sleep) and surreal still life paintings with a quirky energy to them. And oddly enough, this game is classified as survival horror.
As you can imagine, I need to talk about this game. Its premise alone is an interesting subject matter. But that’s not all. What’s even more interesting is how BAD the game ended up being after multiple phases of user testing. I mean, what the hell. There were so many people on board with helping make Hello Neighbor even better, and that’s still not enough to even salvage the game? How the hell did that happen?
So I tried a blind playthrough of this game. And I instantly regretted it. Yeah, Hello Neighbor, we really need to talk…
“No Blood or Violence, 10/10” By a Concerned Parent
So here’s my basic understanding of what Hello Neighbor is. It’s a Russian indie game that had a novel premise for a horror game: you’re a neighborhood kid and you noticed your Neighbor is up to something suspicious, so you sneak into his house to find out what his secrets are. No blood or violence involved. Just being a little snoop and trying to avoid getting caught by a large, intimidating man.
Hello Neighbor went through multiple revisions, some of which you can still find online for free. With each new alpha or beta version released, the game got progressively worse with more bugs. It became a subject of multiple trash-tier clickbait YouTube videos that serve to overhype the game. It’s at the point where people accused the developer of exploiting hype for clicks and purchases. Satirized here.
The irony here? John Wolfe (AKA Harshly Critical) was among these YouTubers who hyped up the game, until he realized the game’s quality is going down a dirty toilet.
And there are also a lot of “lore analysis” videos akin to those based on Five Nights at Freddy’s. I still hate that game, by the way…
Eventually, a final version of Hello Neighbor was rushed out and sold commercially. For about $30. And that’s the version I’ll be talking about for this review. This game was widely panned by critics and regular consumers alike, though oddly has a cult following in a child audience.
Oh boy, it’s one of THOSE games. You know the ones I’m talking about. The kind that oblivious parents and grandparents, who know very little about video games, buy for their kids. And because the kids like it, surely that must mean the video game is actually GOOD because the kids are clearly the video game experts here.
You know what’s the best vidya game ever? Fortnite. My 8-year old grandson plays it all the time and he’s really good at it! I never touched it myself, but my grandson says it’s good. That must mean he’s right!
Yeah. Little kids, with no expectations and likely have played very few different video games in their lives, are the true judges of video game quality. I’m just a hack. Excuse me for sharing opinions, because I am clearly the stupid one here.
In Hello Neighbor, you are Nicky Roth, a normal neighborhood boy with a bad case of Adult Face Syndrome.
For real, though, why does he have a square jaw, bags under his eyes and super thick eyebrows? It’s like a short adult man trying to dress up as a kid. And it’s creepy as fuck.
Nicky was playing with his ball one day until he hears a child’s scream from his Neighbor’s house. The Neighbor locks the unseen child behind a mysterious yellow door.
Well then… possible child kidnappings… that’s not disturbing at all…
Through a hilarious tone shift, the Neighbor spots you and breaks his own window to catch you.
When I first saw this, I broke out in laughter. I mean, why would he do that? Why couldn’t he just use his front door? Well, Neighbor, I hope you have hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars to pay for all the damages done to your house! Damages YOU caused!
But don’t worry. The Neighbor is a “decent” enough guy to leave you unconscious in front of your house. He’s making sure that little Nicky doesn’t become part of his child slave trade basement. At least, that’s what I’m assuming what’s behind the yellow door.
But instead of calling the police like a person with common sense would do, Nicky investigates the Neighbor’s house by himself AGAIN despite the possible repercussions of breaking into a strange man’s house.
…Well, I guess we got to find some excuse to force in this premise.
A Jagged World of Impossibilities
Before I descend further into the rabbit hole, I believe I should discuss Hello Neighbor’s other qualities. Visually, the game looks… okay. The cartoonish art style works to the game’s advantage, which makes it stand out from your typical indie horror game. In spite of that though, many of the 3D models look jagged and unfinished, as if they were made by a college student in his first semester in a 3D modeling course. Like, we’re talking about class assignments finished at the last minute. That kind of quality. I would know. My first semester models look like the ones in this game.
Some items look so bad that I have no idea what they’re supposed to be. And they look even worse when you see them phasing through solid walls, doors and other objects. Or hell, weird textures that don’t fit the item in question, like a wooden texture on an electric panel.
The overall rough look of Hello Neighbor is only exacerbated even further by the character models’ stiff animations. For example, there was a cutscene that plays after you finish Act 2, where you see a low angle view of Nicky running away. It’s one of the most awkward-looking things in the game. Nicky’s head doesn’t move at all (though his massive chin puffs in and out like a sputtering balloon) and his arms just flail about, as if he turned into a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man.
There’s also a day-night cycle mechanic in this game, for some odd reason. It doesn’t serve much of a purpose, other than to make your playthrough more difficult. In what way, you ask? Well…
IT’S TOO FUCKING DARK!
You’d think breaking into your Neighbor’s house would be easier at night because:
- It’d be easier to sneak around, being dark and all.
- This would be the time of the day where the Neighbor sleeps without interruptions.
But nope! The Neighbor acts the same as he does during daytime, and he can see you in the dark like he’s an owl or something. And he carries his own flashlight. That’s just great.
All nighttime does in this game is to make individual items harder to find and puzzles harder to solve. And if you want to waste one inventory slot for carrying around a flashlight, be my guest.
I really wanted to at least like the game’s visuals, which were the one thing that drew me in to play this shitfest to begin with. But it’s hard to do so when the game’s amateurish qualities take precedence.
At the very least, the game’s sound design is competent. While it’s minimalist, it does prevent the game’s levels from being completely stagnant. I know that’s not a high bar to set, but there are enough pleasant sounds to go around to count as ambience. Being a mostly silent game with minimal voice acting and few pieces of music, it could’ve been much worse.
Though there is one piece of music that plays throughout the game. It’s the Neighbor’s goofy chase theme.
It’s like someone’s thumping a bass. And I don’t mean just regular thumping either. I’m talking about someone making love to a bass. It just sounds… silly, for a chase theme.
Oddly enough, the earlier versions of Hello Neighbor had different chase themes. And they’re all quite the contrast to what we have now.
Good lord. Who thought the earrape second theme was ever a good idea?
And aside from the generic ambience, Hello Neighbor also features a mixture of pleasant acoustic and electric guitar pieces. Though they’re very short, I’d still say they’re pretty nice.
And there you go. That’s probably the nicest thing I could say about Hello Neighbor. And next up, we’re going to talk about the GAMEPLAY. Uggggggghhhhhhh.
Running Away from a Superhuman
Oh god, where do I begin with this mess?
So Hello Neighbor is a first-person sandbox exploration/”stealth” game where the game’s objectives frequently change. And I put “stealth” in quotes because this is NOT a stealth game. This is a haul-ass-or-get-caught game. As established by the game’s Act 1, your objective is to break into the Neighbor’s yellow door sealed by a red lock.
The “sandbox” portion of the game is that you can grab and carry almost any small object you come across. From there, you can either drop them in place, throw them, unlock doors or use a certain function (like switching on a flashlight).
Your inventory only has four item slots, so you have to make it count. However, the actual purpose for each item is not always clear from just looking at it. This means that it’s highly possible that you could throw out a seemingly useless item away, only to look up a walkthrough to find out that you actually need it!
So guess what? RESTART THE ACT!
This kind of game design is a disaster waiting to happen. Every item takes up one inventory slot, regardless of size. A key takes up the same amount of space as a box full of junk. And at some point or another, you’re going to have to swap items to make progress. And if you happen to lose an item you’ll need later, whether you dropped it at an inconvenient place or it glitched out of existence, TOUGH! You just gotta start the whole Act over.
And the items don’t reset back to their original positions either, unless you start the entire Act all over. Everything is exactly where you left them (unless they glitched out of existence).
This happened to me a few times. There are so many items that you can pick up, but you wouldn’t know which ones are important without a walkthrough or a lot of guesswork. In some playthroughs I watched, I’ve seen people bring seemingly important stuff back to Nicky’s house (the one directly across from the Neighbor’s house), so that they wouldn’t lose them. However, this takes up time and it quickly becomes a chore.
And here’s our mascot of the game, the Neighbor himself. In other media, he’s known as Theodore Peterson. But you wouldn’t know this unless you read the Hello Neighbor books, because the actual game those books were based on doesn’t really tell you much.
This big guy with a comical mustache is the main chaser of Hello Neighbor, though other things can kill you in this game. This character was advertised as possessing a highly advanced AI that can outsmart you at every turn. Is he really? Well…
Picture this. Mr. Peterson has two states: relaxed and alerted. While in his relaxed state, he’ll go through his daily routine. He’ll occasionally come outside and exercise. He’ll be sitting on the couch watching TV. He’ll be taking a nap on his bed.
However, if he sees you or hears a suspicious sound, he’ll enter an alerted state. He’ll search the whole house until he finds you. He’ll try to track down whichever parts of the house you visited (usually through a trail of open doors and broken windows). And if he spots you, he’ll throw tomatoes at you to temporarily block your vision (like using a Blooper in Mario Kart) or throw bottles of glue at you to slow you down.
The only times Mr. Peterson will revert to his relaxed state is if he sees you running across the street from his house or if you get caught by him. And anytime when you’re close to him, your vision shakes and darkens, then you hear a distorted piano chord.
You’d think Mr. Peterson would be somewhat predictable this way, but no. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every time he knows you’re around, he’ll constantly run around the house in search for you. He moves mostly silently too (you might hear footsteps, but they’re not too loud), so hiding inside closets or under beds doesn’t help much. While you can peek through keyholes to see if he’s in a room next to you, this takes up time. And time is what you don’t have in Hello Neighbor, especially when you’re being hunted down. You can also throw stuff at him and knock him down, but he doesn’t stay down for long. And if you run away from him while inside the house, clicking on doors to open them doesn’t always work and he’ll catch you immediately. This isn’t like Amnesia: The Dark Descent where you could easily close doors on your chasers and find a place to hide. Or even dodge the chasers’ attacks.
Tch’yeah, a “stealth” game. You might as well charge in, guns blazing. Like Rambo.
It doesn’t matter how stealthily you move around anyway. In some way or another, Mr. Peterson will hear you and the chase is on. Sometimes, if you stand behind him, he’ll immediately face you (no turning animation whatsoever) and go after you. How he reacts to your presence is so damn inconsistent. Sometimes, you could be in another room and he’ll “see” you like he has x-ray vision or something.
But here is where the “highly advanced AI” shines. If Mr. Peterson catches you, he’ll begin setting up traps at places you’ve already visited. He’ll fill his hallways with security cameras. These cameras don’t move and you can easily take them down, but they’re very annoying. Once these cameras spot you, they’ll sound an alarm and Mr. Peterson will immediately run towards your current location. Really doesn’t matter where he is. He could be out in the streets and you could be in a faraway remote location. If a camera spots you, he knows EXACTLY where you are.
Luckily, if the map has an electric panel, you can shut it down to deactivate the cameras. But Mr. Peterson will most certainly be around the corner.
Also, he sets up bear traps. Yes, he sets up fucking bear traps (the kind that can break your bones) to catch a snooping child! Funnily enough, the bear traps will only slow you down and you just have to tap a button many times to get out. No lasting damage to your legs or bleeding out, just keep pushing buttons! Like with the cameras, triggering one of these will notify Mr. Peterson of your location.
I have no idea how Mr. Peterson came to possess supersonic hearing or x-ray vision. Whatever you call this, it certainly isn’t “highly advanced AI.” The part where he “learns” of your past break-ins and prepares ahead for subsequent visits is a novel idea. But all this does is make the game a lot more tedious and difficult than it needs to be. And to rub more salt into the wound, it’s harder to break into Mr. Peterson’s house without him spotting you, leading to an endless cycle of getting caught and going through the same shit over and over.
I even triggered this bizarre glitch in the second portion of Act 1. I got stuck in a wall and Mr. Peterson was right there, trying to get me. But he couldn’t catch me, so he just lodges me further into the wall and I can’t get out. The game just trembles as he awkwardly hovers over me with a neutral expression as a distorted piano chord constantly plays. Eww. Forget every other “horror” moment of this game, intentional or not. THIS is the scary shit!
So guess what? I had to start over.
This isn’t “highly advanced AI.” This is synonymous to a fighting game boss reading your button inputs, then reacting with a faster counterattack. It’s only difficult because it’s rigged to your AI opponent’s favor. It’s designed to be unfair.
Ugh, this is not going well. But I’m still not done here. Oh no, I can deal with broken AI if I can read its patterns and expose its weaknesses. But that is not the worst part of Hello Neighbor. Oh no. It’s those goddamned, motherfucking puzzles.
Pixar’s House from Hell
I’m not exaggerating when I say this. Hello Neighbor has one of the most horrendous, unfocused, convoluted, nonsensical and aggravating progression systems I have ever seen in a video game. It destroys common sense. It defies logic. It frustrates you to no end. And it has no fucks to give.
The “puzzles,” if you can even call them that, make no sense. If there didn’t exist walkthroughs, you’d have zero clue on what to do.
Let me provide an example based on the first portion of Act 1. So again, your objective is to find a red key so that you can enter inside a locked door that had a screaming child behind it. Here’s my process for attempting a blind playthrough.
First, I explored the first floor of the house, hoping to find clues on where to go. The house, aside from its eccentric style, seems normal. There’s a second floor that is inaccessible because the door to upstairs is locked. So I thought I had to go look for a key to this door. I’ve been looking around the house for a couple of hours, trying to figure what the hell I’m doing wrong and what I’m missing.
Well, here’s the actual solution to completing this part of the game:
- Collect 2-3 boxes and one item you can use to break a window. Hell, for shits and giggles, just go find an empty aluminum can and see how super effective it is in breaking windows.
- Climb on top of the leaning rack in front of the house, then stack the boxes on top of each other to jump onto the roof on the left portion of the house.
- Perform a long jump towards the right side of the roof, granting you access to the house’s second floor. Use an item to break the window.
- On the second floor, there’s a locked door leading into another room. You’d think you would need to find a key here, but you’d be wrong. Take the flower painting next to the door to reveal a secret hole in the wall. Inside this room is yet another locked door. If you peek through its keyhole, you will see the red key on a table.
- Take the other small red key in the room you’re in and go to Mr. Peterson’s car on his front lawn. Unlock the trunk to find a magnet gun.
- From this point, there are multiple solutions:
- This is the solution I used. I just return back to the second floor with the magnet gun. I peeked through the keyhole, then used the magnet gun to get the red key. Done.
- Go to the back of the house to find an open window to the basement. Use the magnet gun here to get a lockpick. Use the lockpick on one of the locked doors in the house’s first floor to find a wrench. Go to the back of the house again and use the wrench to gain access to a ladder. The ladder will lead you to a hole in the roof where you can pick up the red key.
- You’re done. Use the red key to get to the next portion of Act 1, the basement.
…Okay, first off, how the fuck would I know to go straight to the second floor of the house by stacking boxes on top of each other? Second, the solution I went through does NOT require me to explore the first floor at all, meaning I wasted all that time for nothing. Third, what the fuck is up with this game’s physics!?
Seriously, this game’s controls are so slippery and imprecise. It’s like you’re on an ice skating rink. For one thing, trying to stack the boxes on top of each other. The only way to drop an item you’re holding is to use the throw button. But if you just tap the button, it’ll drop right in front of you. But… you need to stack the boxes on top of each other perfectly or else they will tilt over and fall off the rack. You also need to be very careful when you jump onto the boxes without tilting them, then you can access the roof.
Then there’s the jumping. Good lord. The jumps are so stiff and floaty in Hello Neighbor that it’s like you’re on the goddamn Moon. To reach another part of the house’s roof, you’d have to execute a long jump (running, then jumping). But the long jump ALWAYS overshoots and it’s very hard to control. If you collide with something during the jump, you just drop down on the ground.
I cannot stress enough on how bad this game’s controls are and how the physics tend to work against you. This begs the question: why are there physics puzzles in a game with terrible physics?
And this is just Act 1 too. Speaking of which, the basement…
So this is the part where Hello Neighbor starts getting a bit creepy. Behind a washing machine is a secret entrance to a labyrinthine basement with dark rooms with televisions playing static, dimly lit hallways, out-of-place mannequins, and children’s toys scattered everywhere. I don’t understand why this basement needs to be so elaborate, but that’s the least of our worries.
From the beginning, Mr. Peterson hasn’t spawned yet. He will only spawn if you reach a certain point in the map, in which this portion of the game becomes much harder than it needs to be.
The goal here is to navigate through the darkness to find a switch that will open an electric door, ending Act 1. Sounds easy enough, right? And if you’re lucky, you might even find a flashlight to make this easier. But once Mr. Peterson has spawned, exploring this whole map becomes a LOT more tedious.
I mean, look at this shit. I went through so many attempts on this one part of the game alone. Look at how many security cameras I had to take apart in just one room. This “highly intelligent advanced AI” is getting on my nerves. I can’t even explore the map because the damn Neighbor is always right around the corner!
By the way, if you pause the game, you may notice that you could “restart” the area. So you might be wondering if this would be helpful at all if the game gets too hard, right? Well, no. All this does is put you back to the spawn point. Everything, including the items you touched and all the traps Mr. Peterson laid out, is still there. The only way to truly start this map all over… is to restart the entire Act. That means I’d have to go through that convoluted roof-hopping bullshit earlier.
So to complete the basement and finish Act 1, I had to perform an exploit. I learned that if you pass through a specific wall (the one with all those loose bricks that you can easily knock over), Mr. Peterson spawns on the map. So I DON’T pass through this part and navigated through a different part of the map, then eventually found the switch I needed to open the electric door. That way, I don’t have to deal with all that deluge of security cameras and bear traps.
Unbelievable. When Hello Neighbor doesn’t play fair, I was left with no choice but to find a workaround. And there are still two more acts… oh god…
So thankfully, Act 2 is only one map. Unfortunately, this is where Hello Neighbor becomes truly absurd.
So after you escape Mr. Peterson’s basement, you learn that he somehow found the time and resources to turn his house into some kind of clown fortress. Okay, what?
He has both wooden and steel fences surrounding the house. The house itself is even bulkier with multiple rooms, twisting pipes and extra floors. Inside, there are pieces of furniture used as barricades for some bizarre reason. Some rooms are ONLY accessible through windows, as they have no doors. Furthermore, the exit is sealed with a red padded lock.
There is no way in HELL that Mr. Peterson got a building permit to do all this. Even taking into account that this world has wacky physics, there’s no way the freakin’ house could support all this weight without collapsing onto itself. Furthermore, WHY did he do this? So he’s keeping two children in the basement, so he’s going to draw attention to himself by constructing a ridiculously big house that towers over the neighborhood!?
But again, that’s the least of our problems. It’s a given that your next objective is to escape Mr. Peterson’s yard. But doing so requires finding items in weird places and making absurd leaps of logic to solve puzzles.
For example, you need to find a wrench in a refrigerator. Okay, game, fuck off. Why would I check a random place like a REFRIGERATOR for a wrench? Why would Mr. Peterson put a wrench in a random place like a refrigerator anyway?
Then you need to flood a room in the attic with enough water to reach an otherwise unreachable door so you could freeze it later on. But to do this, you need to overload Mr. Peterson’s water pipes so that a valve will break off one of his pipes in his backyard. Then you use this valve to plug into several pipes to redirect water into the house’s attic (and some of those pipes are in random, hard-to-reach spots, so good luck finding them).
Oh, and by the way, there’s a flooded room in the attic with a “shark” in it that could kill you (which is actually a repurposed toy). You need to drain the water from that room to get a shovel. And you wouldn’t even know there’s a shovel in there unless you drained the water.
Then you need to use that shovel in the backyard to dig out a casket with a key in it. Then you take this key to a dollhouse with a padlock on it. This dollhouse is somehow wired to some of the house’s locks; if you open the doors in the dollhouse, you unlock a couple of doors inside the house itself. Figure that one out.
One of these unlocked doors will take you to a switch, which freezes the water in the attic I mentioned earlier. Then you can finally reach the room with the red key you need to finish Act 2.
Did you get all that!? No!? Well, I didn’t either! You get NO HINTS on what to do or how to do any of this. I applaud the people who had the patience to sit through this bullshit because this is truly maddening.
But… we’re still not done. There’s one more Act after this one. What is waiting for us, now that we just cleared a series of nonsensical puzzles?
OH, FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOU!!!!!
WHAT HUMAN BEING WOULD LIVE IN A HOUSE LIKE THAT!? I mean, if this were Count Dracula from the Castlevania series, he’d probably buy this overly complicated amusement park house if he plans to live in the modern-day suburbs. BUT EVEN THEN, THIS IS EXCESSIVE!
What is just as befuddling is the fact that the house is no longer surrounded by an excessive number of fences like it was in Act 2, as if those fences were never there at all.
What kind of sadistic programmer would implement a map like this and thought, “Hmm, good enough. Go ahead and release the game, boss?” I feel sick just looking at this house! It’s several stories high, has train tracks and a windmill at the rooftop. I couldn’t even stand exploring the house in Act 2. Imagine how I feel trying to explore this shit in Act 3.
And let me tell you. Act 3 is truly the low point of Hello Neighbor. This game was bad from the beginning, but this is the most harrowing experience it throws at you. Mr. Peterson must’ve been one disturbed man, because only a madman could design his house in Act 3. Rooms missing walls, rooms that are absolutely inaccessible and you can only peek through a little hole in the wall, rooms leading to dead ends, rooms high up in the air where someone could easily fall off and die, etc.
I mean, for god’s sake, it requires you to jump on top of a wall lamp to access an area that is otherwise shut off. A tiny wall lamp that would’ve had no significance in most video games and would’ve broken off if you tried to jump on it in real life. This doesn’t even sound like a legit solution to pass this area. It sounds like a damn exploit.
Other stupid, absurd things you had to do:
- Removing a crowbar jammed in a working electric panel, which is REALLY DANGEROUS TO DO BY THE WAY! And you need to use the heated crowbar to melt a block of ice in a freezer that has a frozen keycard in it. You need both the crowbar and the keyboard to access the game’s finale.
- Guessing a button combination (on a 12-button panel) to activate a lift across a hallway with no floor. The lift doesn’t travel very far. To reach this lift, you had to perform a dangerous long jump that would severely injure or kill people in real life.
- Throwing a box at a switch perfectly so that it toggles on and activates an elevator.
- Entering a room that leads you to a surreal supermarket with living mannequins, then shopping for specific items to clear the area. After that, you get a secret powerup and access to the upper levels of the house.
- Constantly trying to open a door barricaded by cardboard boxes and removing each box one by one to get through.
- Rearranging objects in a room to open some random trapdoor outside that allows you to activate a tram.
- Reposition the tram so you can stack several boxes to climb onto a pipe, then jump off the pipe to reach the top of the tram. Then you jump off the tram to access a roof area that leads you to a wrench.
- Using gramophones to force several bushes to either grow or shrink at an absurd rate, multiple times.
- PUTTING A GLOBE INSIDE A FREEZER TO FREEZE IT so you can place it in a pedestal, which causes a random room filled with water to freeze. WHAT!?
- Dropping something into a room full of gears, which somehow deactivates a magnet, granting you a green key. You need this key to access another area full of living mannequins. Completing this area grants you another special ability.
- Opening a door that you can only open in the nighttime, then leaving something in its way to prevent it from closing. Inside, there’s a door you can only access in the daytime. So you have no choice but to kill yourself or restart the area to cause night to transition to daytime to open this door. Then you get a slice of cake. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME THAT THE DAY-NIGHT TRANSITION HAD ANY GAMEPLAY PURPOSE!
- Collecting 4 mannequins and 4 slices of cake to assemble inside a party room. This means pretty much exploring the ENTIRE HOUSE INCLUDING HIDDEN ROOMS to complete this puzzle. This gets you a toy gun. This toy gun lets you shoot at Mr. Peterson to slow him down. Mostly useless, but you need to get it to reach the end of the game.
- Use the gun to shoot wall decorations in this very specific room. When they all glow yellow, it somehow opens a door to a switch. It is this one specific switch that lets you collect the area’s red key, which you can use to enter a floating portion of the house towards the rooftop. There, you complete a giant pantry section that grants you a double jump ability.
And you need to clear all this shit without ANY HINTS!
How. The fuck. Would anyone figure this out without hours upon hours of trial and error!? This is NOT how you design a game! There is no logical progression to forming your next objective or on how to solve the puzzles. And when you clear the three “Fear” areas (the ones with the living mannequins), you gain new abilities that would’ve been useful much earlier in the game, but the game doesn’t even tell you that you have them!
Imagine being a little kid and you begged your parents to buy you Hello Neighbor because your favorite YouTuber talked so favorably of it. Then you feel cheated because you couldn’t figure out how to get past the first section of the game! So you asked your parents to return the game for a different one. But you learn firsthand about copyright laws (namely, piracy and copyright infringement) and the only thing you could do with an opened video game case is exchange it for the same game. So now, you realize the money has been wasted into a shitty game that you have no choice but to keep it. And your parents just say, “Deal with it, you little shit. Not spending more money on you…”
This kind of game design ranks up with some of the worst NES games ever released, mainly the ones where you don’t know what the fuck you’re supposed to do! And Act 3 was my breaking point. I got stuck on a puzzle and I had no idea what to do from there. So you know what? Fuck it. I give up! I’ll just see the rest of the game on YouTube!
So after all that nightmarish hell, you come across a final boss. Well, TWO final bosses. Yeah, in a game with mostly no bosses, we got bosses now. Fuck it, I’m not going to question it.
The first one is a giant version of Mr. Peterson with his house on his back. For the most part, he doesn’t really do anything and just stands there. You’d have to solve a series of puzzles to stun him, so that he’ll kneel down and you can reach the house on his back. From what I observed, the puzzle doesn’t even look that bad (at least, compared to the rest of the game), though it still makes leaps of logic. Whatever.
Then you fight this giant shadow person, who first appeared at the beginning of Act 3. You have to protect your younger self from harm. And each the shadow hits you, you grow bigger. I don’t get it, but eh.
And that’s it. That’s Hello Neighbor. So all this time, you might be wondering what the fuck the story is about. What does this bizarre shit all mean? Well…
At this point, I’m not even sure why Hello Neighbor required so many “lore” videos. Despite its attempts at telling a mostly silent minimalist nonlinear story, you can get the general gist of it from just the imagery. Sure, there’s some digging around required, but it’s actually straightforward when you think about it.
At the beginning of the game, you can find a missing poster depicting the silhouettes of a young boy and a young girl.
During gameplay, if you get caught by Mr. Peterson, there’s a chance that you will go through a nightmare sequence that may depict one of Mr. Peterson’s memories.
…Yes, the game incentivizes getting caught to get bits of the story. It’s stupid, but I’m not even going to bother questioning it at this point.
One memory shows Mr. Peterson crying next to a car wreck. Another one shows him in a hospital in the waiting room, anxious about the fate of someone currently in a hospital bed (before that person dies).
Another sequence shows you on a rollercoaster as you run into a cardboard cutout of a little girl. At this point, the coaster has hands on it as if simulating pushing the little girl off to her doom.
Due to the surreal nature of the game and how the house’s shape changes to the point of absurdity, I can infer that the majority of events in Hello Neighbor is just an elaborate dream by Nicky Roth. More evidence is that anytime you see text in the game, it’s always in gibberish (some of it looking like a bastardized version of English). Nicky’s childhood trauma exaggerated the memory of his Neighbor’s house, making it seem more complicated than it really is. The trauma came from him trying to sneak into his Neighbor’s house one time, but ended up getting caught and locked away.
And those events all happened during Nicky’s childhood. Because as an adult, when he returned to his childhood home, Mr. Peterson’s house is nowhere to be seen. The fates of Mr. Peterson and the mysterious unseen child are unknown at this point. Adult Nicky moving back into his childhood home is a way for him to confront his past.
With that said, Theodore Peterson is not necessarily a bad person. He was a grief-stricken man who lost someone dear to him (most likely family). And at some point, his mind snapped and he had a child locked away in his basement.
And with some digging around, you can find a hidden photo in Act 3 that shows Mr. Peterson with a family: a wife, a son and a daughter. It’s very likely that the wife was the one who perished in the car incident. And going by one of the nightmare sequences, it’s possible that something happened to the daughter as well. So the screaming child at the beginning of the game was most likely Mr. Peterson’s son. But why he decided to lock his child away was never explained, though it might be because of what happened to the daughter.
The game’s ending unfortunately didn’t really say much. It showed Mr. Peterson desperately keeping someone locked away: behind the door is a smaller version of the shadow man since early in Act 3. Everything else is left to interpretation.
…I don’t know. It feels like Hello Neighbor is trying to use this kind of minimalist open-ended storytelling just for the sake of bringing out more Let’s Play and “lore” videos. Basically, to tap into that Five Nights at Freddy’s market with a small budget. The game doesn’t seem to understand subtlety or symbolism.
Every card is laid out for you on the table. You just have to scramble about which ones are relevant, that’s all…
Overall, the surrealism and ambiguity feel meaningless, as if they’re more of a crutch rather than being story elements. Like, what’s the story significance of the mannequins? Is it because it’s a horror game, therefore it’s a requirement to include an old cliché like haunted mannequins?
Even if you make the excuse that the events of the game operate on dream logic (in an attempt to justify the bizarre puzzles the game presents to you, meaning they were purposely made to be bad and nonsensical), it’s not at all worth it to go through all that agony for an unsatisfying ending.
And the developer had the audacity to put a price tag of $30 on this game. Hell, $40 on the Nintendo Switch version when it first came out! Given the current broken state that Hello Neighbor is in, this game isn’t even worth $5. Seriously, you could buy far superior indie titles with that kind of money, even when they first released.
If you ever plan to buy this game out of curiosity or you just want to get a good laugh out of how badly glitchy it is, DON’T. Seriously, do NOT buy this game! Not even on a sale. Of course, I can’t stop you if you really want to, but seriously. This whole experience is joyless and I don’t think anyone else should have to play this game. Rarely has a game ever put my patience through such a stress test of grand proportions. And Hello Neighbor is one of those games. As a consumer and a reviewer, I played as much of this shitfest as I could so you don’t have to. I’m here to tell you that it’s not worth it.
Now, despite all this, Hello Neighbor was unfortunately successful due to the amount of hype it got. And that’s enough for a followup game in 2018.
Good job, tinyBuildGAMES. You just released a trailer that basically spoiled the WHOLE STORY. It’s funny, because this 2-minute trailer is much more interesting than the entirety of the original Hello Neighbor.
Hell, even the fan content based on Hello Neighbor is much better than the game itself. Seriously, go check them out.
Well, I don’t really want to play the Hide and Seek game considering my bad experience with its predecessor. But if I feel fired up again, I’ll probably try it out and see if the developer learned anything. Skimming at reviews of the game, the general consensus seems to be, “It’s at least better.” Well, we’ll see, I guess.
- The Pixar-esque art style is alright.
- The guitar music that plays during cutscenes is pleasant.
- Many of the 3D models and animations look amateurish and unfinished.
- It's very easy to lose important items, whether by accident or through a glitch.
- The Neighbor's AI is so broken that stealth is meaningless here.
- Glitches galore!
- Badly designed, illogicial puzzles that come across as random and broken. Trying to solve them without a walkthrough is maddening.
- Slippery, imprecise controls that just don't work like you want them to. Combined with bad physics, every portion of the game that requires you to climb into high areas is super stressful.
- Overall, this game is a large mass of wasted potential.