Hello Neighbor has been in development by Dynamic Pixels for a few years, releasing as an alpha in 2015, then early access on Steam. Even turning to Kickstarter for some funding as well Recently the game finally got an official release on Xbox One. With a major level of anticipation, even seeing Funko Pop! Figures on shelves before the full release, but does Hello Neighbor live up to the hype?
There seemed to always be a major buzz for Hello Neighbor, even with non-PC gamers. I had seen many screenshots, the graphics and art design were unlike anything I had seen before, a mixture of cartoons and a twisted 1950’s atmosphere. Hearing that Hello Neighbor used a unique artificial intelligence for the big bad, giving him the ability to learn your actions and prepare for them made me even more intrigued. Some could argue that the bar was set too high for Hello Neighbor, because what we ended up with, was not what I expected at all.
Hello Neighbor begins with the players view in first person, as a little boy playing with a ball on the street. He manages to kick the ball down the street until it gets away from him and ends up in front of his neighbor’s house. A terrible scream emanates from the home and as you run over to see what is going on, peering into the window, you find the mustached owner wearing gloves and barricading his basement door. What is going on? That’s up to you the player to figure out.
Hello Neighbor looks cool, it really does. The graphics are not beautiful or intricate, but the lack of detail is outweighed by the interesting design and the colorful animated world feels out of place for the dark subject matter making it even more unique. Sound and audio are very basic, but the ambient noises of the radio and tv broadcasts are fun. The aesthetics are what brought me to Hello Neighbor, but the problems I encountered after I started are what killed the experience.
Hello Neighbor has always been marketed as a very unique stealth game. The developers have touted the A.I. for some time, stating its ability to learn from the players previous attempts to break in the house. What I found though, was that the “neighbor” generally had no discernable path and seemed to just wander around most the time, no matter my tactics. This is only the beginning to the problems with Hello Neighbor. I quickly discovered, as there is no introduction or teaching aspect to the game or controls, that the controls were very touchy and did not handle well at all. After awhile I figured out that items can be picked up and a total of four can be in your inventory. These items generally are just used to throw and stun, or distract your neighbor. Many items like boxes can be picked up and stacked, giving the player the ability to “build” an entry path into the house. IF you can manage the horrible interface and get them stacked and work the horrible jump responsiveness, AND not knock over your tower. I ended up being more frustrated than anything in my many attempts to break in and figure out what the hell was going on!
After a few frustrating and disappointing hours with Hello Neighbor I was able to solve a few of the objectives, usually by luck more than perseverance. There are so many great ideas in Hello Neighbor but they seem almost half finished. Other than the interesting setting and art design, it just ends up being a grab bag of failed ideas and frustrating gameplay. There is a great game here if controls were polished, interfaces fixed to help players, and while the idea of a learning A.I. baddie/opponent is fantastic, this is not the itelligence I was expecting. A chapter based game with a pathing system that players could learn would make for a much more enjoyable experience than the current version of Hello Neighbor. For now though, Hello Neighbor is my biggest disappointment of 2017.
Hello Neighbor is available now on Xbox One and Steam. This review is based on an Xbox One copy provided for that purpose.