The premise of Hello Neighbor is enticing to me – having grown up in suburbia with an overactive imagination. As the plucky unnamed child protagonist, you hear and see some disturbing things through your middle-aged neighbors window and take it upon yourself to investigate.
Unfortunatelly, the most disturbing thing ends up being the puzzle design.
HOUSE OF HORRORS
The ultimate goal of each of hello neighbors three acts is to find a way into the neighbors basement and uncover what he’s hiding while he roams around trying to find you and kick you out. The simple stealth system gets annoying pretty quickly especially on the earlier levels where the house is so cramped that the neighbor was practically on top of me all the time, no matter where i was.
The floor plan gets larger and more elaborate across each of the three acts but getting caught so often eartly on had already dulled the tension by then.
The level layouts and the later acts are cool but they feature some of the most bizarre and frustrating „guess what I’m thinking puzzles“ since the days of the 90s adventure game boom. In fact, they’re worse. The combination of items and actions needed to progress often don’t make any logical sense whatsoever so it becomes pure trial and error instead of something that rewards cleverness observation or ingenuity. To give one example, I had to freeze a pool of water so I could walk across it by putting a globe recovered from an obscure corner of the house in the neighbors freezer and then placing it on a pedestal .
Hello Neighbor does an abysmal job of teaching you what kind of interactions are possible within its world and nudging you towards progress. There are rewards for navigating this labyrinth at least. The basement segments at the end of each act are effective at ratcheting up the creepiness and even presenting some outright horror.
The overall mood and feeling that something is always just a little bit off is well constructed in terms of graphics and audio. Perhaps Hello Neighbor was always intended to be more of a community experience, its complexity and oddball internal logic suggests some kind of Byzantine and Enygma box intented to be pecked away at by a group of people sharing discoveries online until someone finally reaches the end. But if that’s the case anyone who jumps into play by themselves today will wish the’d stayed on their own side of the fence.