Hello Neighbor is composed of a rather strange recipe; it is first and foremost a horror game, yet its whimsical cartoon characters and colourful world make it appear more like a children’s film. What seems an unusual mash-up has developed into a wonderfully fun adventure filled with its fair share of frantic, heart-pounding action. Dynamic Pixels’ Hello Neighbor will not be for all horror fans’ tastes, but its appeal will extend to anyone with interests in a very clever and unique horror game.
As you begin, you are told to investigate your neighbour’s house. His unorthodox behaviour is clear from the get go; strange noises come from his house, there are numerous security cameras outside, and there is a freshly dug soil patch in his garden. These begin to point towards something more sinister; however, they are only hunches, and I found myself wondering if I was indeed the bad guy intruding into someone’s home solely to investigate slightly bizarre behaviour.
Dynamic Pixels have captured the essence of a great psychological horror game; Hello Neighbor puts the story into the player’s hands, giving you enough time to explore the house and to discover the secrets for yourself. It is not all black and white, and opinions on what is truly occurring within the house and with your neighbour will vary from player to player. The horrors are not from gore, blood and disgusting looking monsters, it is from that constant feeling of knowing you don’t belong in this man’s home but at the same time knowing that you need to continue and delve further into his dark, odd world.
Your end goal seems relatively straightforward: get into the house and discover what lies behind a well-secured door. This is made more difficult as the environment is made up of randomly generated areas; you can play a game of cat and mouse with your neighbour and manipulate him to wander outside whilst you’re creeping within, only for the environment to change and you’re once again the prey. What’s more, your neighbour’s actions evolve and adapt to how you play the game. You may succeed with one approach, but try that ploy again and he will not fall for it the second time. This intelligent gameplay mechanic makes you to really think about each action you take, and if you are sloppy you’ll get caught out.
These occurrences are fun and exhilarating but hampered, unfortunately, by the clunky mechanics. Jumping feels more like floating in the air, and your general movements are not smooth at all. What’s more, I did notice a few glitches which weren’t detrimental to the gameplay but a little distracting, and I found it frustrating as one of Hello Neighbor’s greatest appeals is its lovely cartoonish look, which did get affected by these glitches. Nevertheless, the game is overall a joy to look at, and the colour palette is so extensive and excellently used to portray both a horror and cartoon game. If you’re not being chased by your psychotic neighbour, you can at times feel as if you’re in a Pixar film.
Though your neighbour is certainly your enemy, Dynamic Pixels have created a number of ‘fear rooms’ that encourage the player to feel a small amount of sympathy and compassion towards your strange AI antagonist. These rooms remove all laws of physics and make you feel as if you’re exploring a child’s nightmare. They also help to change the pace of the game by introducing elements that turn it into more of a platformer. As you explore a ‘fear room’, or if you venture back out into the house, you will continuously become more enthralled and mystified by what exactly is going on. What do all the secrets mean, and who is the real bad guy?
Developer: Dynamic Pixels
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Release Date: 8th December 2017