Have you ever looked across the street and wondered who lives in that house? You know the one that’s multiple colors, where the owner never comes outside, and you always hear weird noises coming from the house.
You probably think that person is a murderer or some other type of psychopath, because oh isn’t imagination such a great thing. Well, this thought process, along with inspiration from classics of the horror genre, inspired the currently in-development indie title Hello Neighbor by Dynamic Pixels. It’s a fun and creepy ride though it is in VERY early access so it has its shortcomings.
Hello Neighbor has you taking the role of an unnamed character that just moved into a new home. However soon after moving in you start to notice strange occurrences in the home of the neighbor across the way. Things like loud crashing noises in the middle of the night and just really creepy activity. So like anybody with common sense, you don’t call the cops or just ignore it casually and buy an extra lock for your house, you are prompted to break into your neighbor’s home and find out all of his dirty secrets. This is where the game really kicks off and you have to begin piecing together who or what, your neighbor truly is.
Hello Neighbor does an excellent job with indirect storytelling; from a classroom that when you turn your back paper planes and spitballs get lobbed at you from nowhere, to a gravesite in the house with instructions on how to get rid of a body. These and a number of paintings on the walls and overall set up of the house will have you constantly guessing at who this mysterious and scary neighbor truly is. Don’t hope to find an answer yet though the game is still being actively developed and as a result, you can only go so far in the house before there being nothing left to do.
From a gameplay perspective, Hello Neighbor is a first person adventure puzzle game with simple but fun gameplay mechanics. The game’s main way of dealing with puzzles is by finding objects in the environment to deal with them. For example, to get to the second floor you have to get through a flooded room with a hungry shark in it, no I’m not joking! Well, to deal with this you have to turn off the water heater which in turn freezes the water and shark. This sort of creative and entertaining puzzle design is throughout the game and truly makes the experience interesting and enjoyable.
Alongside the puzzles is the neighbor who does not take kindly to your breaking and entering. If he spots you or hears you he will chase you down in which you will have to either hide or be caught and sent back to your house. One of the interesting parts of Hello Neighbor is the fact that when you are caught all your progress doesn’t reset; which means if you figure out a puzzle or only get half way through you won’t have start all over again. If you get caught however more and more traps will be strewn across the house to hamper your progress. The only notable issues in the game right now are the sheer number of bugs; from screen inversion to being permanently stuck, to the neighbor being permanently stuck, and numerous others. This, however, should be expected of such an early alpha game and as a result, you should know what you are getting into.
Visually Hello Neighbor is unique. The cartoon style is something I’ve never seen personally in another game. The style is very fitting adding both a comedic and terrifying element to the game. Sound design is relatively simple with memorable audio cues for when the neighbor is chasing you and for when you’ve done something right. As it stands Hello Neighbor could be one of 2017’s best art directions.
At the end of the day Hello Neighbor as an early alpha title has tremendous promise; showing both originality and complexity. If development continues on its current path Hello Neighbor could be an indie star child by the end of the year. It is full of mystery and intrigue, along with fun puzzle design and some light-hearted humor, this game has a huge potential if it maintains its course and fixes its numerous bugs.. If you decide to try out Hello Neighbor for yourself you might end up asking; do you know who your neighbors are?
FINAL SCORE 8/10
By Chris Ruskin