It’s been almost five years since we were first introduced to the seemingly inconspicuous town of Raven Brooks and its shady resident Theodore Peterson. Despite negative reviews of the first game, Hello Neighbor has received a number of spin-offs and appears to have a fairly active fanbase. This is enough to make a sequel not only inevitable but desirable, especially if developers have learned from the shortcomings of the original game.
The development of Hello Neighbor 2 has been no big secret. A handful of alpha builds have been made available for players to get a feel for what they can expect from the sequel. The beta, however, is the closest we’re likely to get to the finished product, which is set to release December 6th. It’s available for those who pre-order the full game and seems to be set to run right through to December with updates implemented throughout.
At the time of writing this preview, the beta build was v0.0, meaning that early impressions may not be fully representative of the full release. It will, however, be interesting to see how the game is shaping up, especially with several months for the developers to add that polish that critics claimed the original game was missing.
Peterson Is Back and as Unhinged as Ever
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the franchise, Hello Neighbor revolves around the central character of Theodore Peterson who acts as its primary antagonist. Players take on the role of a young boy named Nicky Roth. Without giving too much away, Nicky believes Mr. Peterson is hiding something, and the majority of the game revolves around him investing and evading the man.
Hello Neighbor 2 allows us to return to Raven Brooks, this time in the shoes of Quentin, a local investigative journalist. He’s looking to uncover the truth behind the unexplained disappearances of a number of local children, and Peterson is his prime suspect.
The premise of the sequel is much the same as the first: Mr. Peterson is hiding something, and the playable character wants to find out what it is. Aside from that, the beta build doesn’t offer all that much in terms of story. tinyBuild doesn’t want to give too much away ahead of the full release, but they promise the clues are mostly there for those perceptive enough to pick up on them.
Welcome to Raven Brooks
Rather than giving us a snippet of what is to come in terms of the story, the Hello Neighbor 2 beta allows us to explore the neighbourhood whilst introducing us to some of the game’s core mechanics. This is done through solving puzzles that may not have any impact on the story. Currently, these mechanics are somewhat basic, with some still being worked on whilst others are being omitted entirely until December. As such, the beta doesn’t offer that many opportunities to interact with your surroundings.
The opportunities that are there, however, are clever and give the player freedom to choose whether to sneak past the residents of Ravens Brook or create a distraction to draw them out. Hopefully, this will be built upon before the final release so we can have a game where one player’s experience will differ from another’s.
A big improvement on the original game in terms of overall scope, Hello Neighbor 2 features a relatively open world. That said, out of all the houses on the street, you can only enter a handful, which was a bit of a disappointment. I’m not sure if this will change before the full release, but hopefully it can be mitigated by allowing us to interact with more items in the houses we can explore.
Everybody Is Hiding Something
Whilst the focus remains on Mr. Peterson, the rest of the inhabitants of Raven Brooks seem to have secrets of their own. None of them seem too friendly – not even, much to my dismay, the dogs. It’s understandable though. Most of us wouldn’t be too thrilled if we found a stranger poking around in our homes.
In addition to our neighbours, whom we only have to worry about when on their property, we are also stalked by a beaked character called the Guest. Fans of the franchise might recognise him from earlier alpha builds like the aptly named Hello Guest.
During my time with the beta, he tended to appear at night and only when I was outside, though his motivations are currently unclear.
A More Believable Antagonist
Perhaps the most exciting part of Hello Neighbor 2 is the promise of a neural network by which the AI of the game is continuously evolving by learning from not only us but other players too. This allows our pursuers to act in a more believable manner. As much as I like my safe hiding places, I can’t be the only person who thinks that the large, partially opened wardrobe would be the first place you’d look. There are few things in gaming more annoying than poorly designed AI, be they friend or foe, so having our antagonist evolve and learn could be a real selling point for Hello Neighbor 2 – assuming it’s implemented well.
All in all, Hello Neighbor 2 is shaping up to be an interesting game, but there are definitely some issues that need to be ironed out before the full release as its current state is pretty rough around the edges.
I encountered my fair share of glitches throughout the beta. These ranged from the protagonist’s body not showing up to getting trapped inside the floor and having to restart the game. Such glitches are expected during a beta stage, however. Hopefully, the remaining months before release will give the developers the time they need to correct these glitches and add some much-needed polish.