Wed. Dec 7th, 2022
There isn't much obvious rhyme or reason for the game's puzzles, which turn a 10-minute level into an hour-long affair.
enlarge / There isn’t much obvious rhyme or reason for the game’s puzzles, which turn a 10-minute level into an hour-long affair.

Hello neighbour Won’t be the last game I’m reviewing this year. I can only pray it will be the worst. From now on it is first person stealth puzzle game is the worst game i can remember in a long time.

That’s a shame, because the premise is promising enough. It’s like a suburban take on rear window takes place in the world of Milkman Conspiracy of Psychonauts. Empty, twisted cookie-cutter houses embody a cartoonish paranoia. The player’s character, a young boy believed to be from the windy street where the game is set, sees something he shouldn’t. His titular neighbor has pushed a screaming person (or something) into his basement. Your job is to learn who or what.

All this is implied by means of images. It has to be, because there isn’t really a dialogue in it Hello neighbour. There is also no tutorial or anything like a basic breakdown of the controls. That quickly becomes a problem when you realize that nothing works as it should, from dodging your pursuer to stacking crates to sneak in through windows.

The box and the breaking point

Hello neighbour is nominally a stealth game. You have to dodge the mustachioed neighbor’s claws or face being teleported back to the start of a certain level. But it is For real a puzzle game where you look for the right objects to open the right doors or flip the right switches at the right time.

It all feels terribly insecure. There is no option to drop objects you pick up, just varying degrees to swing them. That becomes a problem almost immediately in the game’s very first puzzle, which requires careful stacking of crates. You might tuck a box into a wall or the ground as gently as you can, only to have it phase through solid matter thanks to the game’s serious clipping issues. Or maybe it will bounce so hard that it flies 30 feet into the air. Or maybe it will hit you so hard that your character does the flying! The physics is so shaky, world-class, on top of the imprecise item control, that it’s hard to know what to expect.

Around these obstacles is the inscrutable neighbor. The punishment for being caught by him is not too severe; you just restart a level with some or all of your progress intact. But it’s not always clear how much progress is lost. Sometimes broken windows and stacked crates stay that way. Other times they don’t.

Similarly, and more frustratingly, it is nearly impossible to map the behavior of the neighbors. Sometimes he can hear you tiptoe around him through walls or 50 paces over his shoulder. Other times I could sprint after him and not be heard. Be that as it may, it’s incredibly difficult to plot an escape if and when his sharp, alert music is doing sound off. You can throw debris in his face to slow him down or try to hide in closets, but otherwise your means of escape feels paltry compared to your frustratingly unstoppable attacker.

You can’t see around the corner. If a door opens inwards, it will clock your character’s face unless you approach it from only the right distance and angle (which is just the most extremely frustrating when you have to beat a hasty retreat). You can’t actually Action objects out of the way without picking them up too, so you’ll need to clear inventory space to move some debris blocking a story critical door. Oh, and setting up your reticle to interact with objects in the first place is tricky when everything comes out.

A series of unfortunate problems

If this review seems like an endless list of grievances thus far, it reflects how Hello neighbour feels moment to moment. The game revolves around reaching a puzzle – a door to be opened or a window to be broken – and remembering each glaring technical problem in sequence. Then it starts all over again if physics breaks in the wrong way to zero your progress or if the neighbor corners you.

You can’t even rescue scum or restart levels easily when things are completely on their side. Just like getting caught by the neighbor, “restarting” a section doesn’t actually reset anything. It just teleports you back to the beginning of the level; your inventory and progress will remain unchanged. So when I accidentally tossed a critical flashlight into a pitch-dark basement, I thought it would be easier to just start over instead of trying in vain to retrieve it. No, the flashlight was lost, forcing me to search for the required button in the dark for half an hour. Restarting was only really helpful when I hit an otherwise game-breaking bug that locked me between two fences.

Incomprehensible, unsatisfactory, forgettable

Even without the technical difficulties you should still be puzzling Hello neighbourThey are rather unintuitive puzzles. In any case, the first level without a tutorial implies that you have to go into the basement. But the actual first step in the mission is to achieve the loft, Collect a magnetic doohickey and use it to hook a harmless piece of jagged metal that turns out to be a lock pick. Things only get dumber from there on as the game’s loose plot gets more surreal.

That surrealism is enticing, but it just isn’t enough to make up for the game’s many problems. Even long after its public release, Hello neighbour still looks unfinished. A few bug fixes and additions (like a simple setting for your opponent’s AI) didn’t fix the core gameplay issues, let alone the general lack of shine. The neighbor is still shivering and sliding on the floor. The audio still jumps when the warning music cuts off abruptly as you escape…

While this is a promising starting point, Hello neighbour is an increasingly surreal mess. His visual stories, which strangely enough usually take place in scenes after you got caught, can not stand up in a torrent of bad design. I hope I don’t have to play another game like this before 2018.

The good:

  • A surreal mix of premises rear window and Psychonauts

The bad:

  • Annoying, stupid controls
  • Buggy, uncertain physics
  • Nonsense Puzzles
  • Inscrutable Enemy AI
  • Game-breaking bugs

The Ugly:

  • Push a story-critical object through a wall and have to figure out where it ended up

verdict: Hello neighbour is the worst game I have reviewed all year. Skip it with prejudice.

By akfire1

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