We've all been there, imagined something funny going on in the house on the other side of the road, and desperate to play detective? Well, that is certainly the role you will play in Hello Neighbour, a stealth horror game about sneaking into the dilapidated house across the street, and discovering what in the heck your creepy neighbor is hiding, courtesy of Dynamic Pixels. Currently, still in development, I checked out the alpha 2 demo, and there was definitely some jump scares to be had already. So starting off we are given a snippet of the story. The player has just moved home, and whilst unpacking finds themselves knocked out by some crazy man with rather disturbing rubber gloves on, only to wake up on a sofa outside to the delightful sounds of screaming coming from the house. Did curiosity kill the cat? Or maybe it will be you?
Breaking and Entering
Control wise it is very simple, there are a couple of buttons that deal with movement and interacting, but not much else. Although easy to understand, currently not the most responsive in the world, and definitely lagged out for me when playing on the highest settings. It does seem to run better with the mouse and keyboard as well, as the analog stick on a standard controller is a bit too fiddly for targeting items to handle or throw. There is a brief tutorial and a smidgen of story, but once done it is left to the player to literally wonder into the house and discover its' secrets. A lot of items can be picked up and thrown, I was rather amused by running around the perimeter throwing a basketball at the windows, and in each room is a cupboard or bed to hide in case mister mustache comes looking.
Ever heard of a cleaner?
One of the most interesting mechanics was once caught, the screen goes dark and you are unceremoniously tossed back outside. However, items that you moved or were holding are all exactly where you left them. Yes, maybe you did throw the lawnmower into the doorway, well guess what, it is still there! I liked this as it kept the immersion going, so even though technically I failed to infiltrate the rather messy suburban home, I don't lose any items I have found. In terms of horrors, I was a bit spooked the first time I was caught, the game does a great job of creating menace with its sound effects. As the mysterious neighbor gets closer, the screen darkens around the edges of your vision, and there is a loud thumping to indicate hurried pounding footsteps. Not gonna lie, this is panic-inducing.
Personal space issues!
There is a very cartoonistic art style to this game, which perhaps does take away some of the fear factors, but it is also quite refreshing to play a horror game that does not rely on the usual dark and dingy setting to set the atmosphere. From the outside, this street appears normal and vibrant, but quiet and certainly eerie, contrasting with the idea of something troubling happening in the house across the road of course. There isn't any music, only traditional outdoor ambient sounds, coupled with plenty of footfalls from you the player as well as the neighbor. Although there is a low drawl for when he is nearby, increasing in volume and intensity aside the visuals as he approaches your hiding spot. I think this game would excel in a virtual reality setting for the most frights, simply because when getting caught, his face is shoved in yours!
In through the window
After getting past my initial laggy hurdle, this demo was quite entertaining if a little frustrating as I wanted to progress but I just could not get near the basement door or find any keys. Something this game is very enthusiastic to promote is the concept of an AI able to learn your moves and intercept before you can have another go. A particularly alarming example of this being when I walked up to the front door again after being ejected to see him standing there through the crack, waiting for me. This was awesome, and I really got into exploring the house to find different points of entry, but due to being in its early stages still, it was not free from glitches. At first, it is terrifying when you are hiding in a cupboard and the neighbor's balding head clips into the door, after that it's just comical.
Fancy wondering into someone else's home? Want to let curiosity drive your actions? Check out the website here for more information on the development, and sign up to have access to this free demo as well. Give it a go!
What is happening behind that heavily bolted door? Find out in Hello Neighbour!
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