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Game Info:

Hello Neighbor
Developed By: Dynamic Pixels
Published By: tinyBuild
Released: December 8, 2017(Microsoft Windows and Xbox One), July 26, 2018 (Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4)
Available On: Android, iOS, PS4, Switch, Windows, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle, Stealth
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ for Mild Violence
Number of Players: 1 player.
Price: $29.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you tinyBuild for sending us this game to review.

Everyone has had that one neighbor who creeped them out. That one person who you’re not really sure who they are or what they do, and whenever you see them outside, they commit strange and ambiguous acts. The developers at Dynamic Pixels play around with the idea with Hello Neighbor: a first-person puzzle-stealth survival horror game.

Hello Neighbor starts with our unnamed child protagonist (who we will refer to as The Kid), playing ball by himself. He sees down the street his neighbor doing something fairly suspicious, so he decides to get a closer look. He stumbles upon our unnamed antagonist (who we will refer to as The Neighbor) stowing something or someone in the basement, accompanied by screams of anguish. The Neighbor spots The Kid and chases him away. But those screams just can’t get out of his head, so The Kid investigates further to see what the heck is going on.

Dynamic Pixels takes an interesting spin on the survival horror genre where instead of some kind of monster or beast hunting you, its simply a middle-aged man. After all, humans are the real monsters. Most of Hello Neighbor takes place inside or around The Neighbor’s house, where you must navigate around to either escape or enter into another section of the house. All while this is happening, The Neighbor is patrolling the area trying to kick you out. The attractive feature of Hello Neighbor is its dynamic AI, where it is stated that The Neighbor learns from your moves. If you like to enter through doors a lot, he will set up buckets that will obscure your vision. If you like to enter through windows, he will set up bear traps to hinder your movement. The AI does exhibit these traits, but only sometimes. There is a setting to set The Neighbor to be a “friendly neighbor” where he isn’t as aggressive and doesn’t set traps, but it didn’t seem to work as he still set up traps, and could still see me from an insane distance.

Hello Neighbor
Highlights:

Strong Points: Extremely interesting premise; has generally creepy moments
Weak Points: AI can be pretty frustrating; confusing objective and narrative; no real punishment for getting caught
Moral Warnings: The Neighbor is a bad person who kidnaps people; might be too scary for especially young children

The controls are fairly simple, but also strange: mouse to look around, WASD for movement, and E to interact or pick up items. Right click can also be used to place or throw held items. The game doesn’t explain this to you one bit unless you go into the control settings, which is honestly a pretty bad feature. It doesn’t help that the controls feel pretty clunky, as to interact or grab items takes precision, which cannot always happen, especially if The Kid is getting chased around. A tutorial to understand what is going on would have been greatly appreciated, as you’re immediately thrust into the situation with no clear direction as to what to even do. The options are also weird because even though the arrow keys are not used in gameplay at all, they are the means to navigate through the menus. I’ve never experienced something like that for any game that I played, and it can be rather annoying.

The Neighbor is definitely a creepy looking individual. He has these beady eyes, wonky proportions, and a barbershop mustache to complement the whole package. Unfortunately, the graphics do not complement the setting and feel of the game. Hello Neighbor is supposed to be a horror game, but the cartoon-like style clashes with it very often, and generally scary moments in the game aren’t taken very seriously. I think a slightly more realistic style would have been a better artistic choice. Fortunately, the music does the creep factor some justice in that aspect. As The Neighbor gets closer and closer, ominous music gets louder and louder, to signal that he is near. This is honestly a great approach, as it made some moments generally scary.

Going back to the AI, The Neighbor can have some pretty frustrating moments. As you get into later acts, his “smart AI” doesn’t really seem to become more dynamic as it just gets a bigger detection radius. I’ve had moments where he detected me when he wasn’t even in the same area and started chasing me down. The Neighbor’s AI can be easily abused as I set up numerous moments in my play through where he would simply loop his actions and fail to catch me.

Hello Neighbor
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 46%
Gameplay - 7/20
Graphics - 4/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 2/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 9/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 9/10

Later in the game, Hello Neighbor seems to ditch the stealth mechanics in favor of puzzles, and most don’t even make sense. Some items can interact with each other, but hints are never given so finding out how they function is based on trial and error. This is also apparent in that there really is no punishment for getting caught except for starting at the “beginning”, but you keep all the items in the inventory, layouts are kept in the same spot, and all doors and locks stay unlocked. If they wanted to make a puzzle game, I feel they should have simply made one instead of making a stealth game that eventually ignores the stealth mechanics. The physics engine is also wonky as objects don’t act the way they do all the time, and it’s very easy to get stuck on geometry. In a way, how the game turns out, it feels like false advertising as the stealth aspect can simply be ignored and brute force will eventually prevail instead of clever initiation and situational awareness.

With a game such as this, the only moral issues I’ve come across is The Neighbor himself. It’s pretty apparent that he kidnaps people, and in one of the later acts, The Kid actually gets kidnapped himself and has to find a way out. It’s not exactly a violent game as if you get caught, the screen simply fades to black, and the only way to potentially defend yourself is to throw items at him, which slows him down.

Hello Neighbor? More like goodbye, neighbor! A wealth of interesting ideas and a unique premise that manages to miss most of the marks they have set out to make. $30 is too much of an asking price for such wasted potential. Lots of frustrating and boring moments, weird AI, and a very confusing narrative that is all over the place, it seems like Dynamic Pixels lost their vision halfway through development. I’ve heard around the community that the final product is very different from the beta held years back. The product is generally safe to play, but young kids might find the game a bit too scary; that is if the obnoxious puzzles don’t get to them first. In the end, this neighbor is not worth visiting.

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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