I would be rubbish in a horror movie me. “What’s that? A noise upstairs? Lets leave the house and call the police then.”
“A serial killer murdered 18 people with a sewing needle and sang Johnny Cash songs while he did it and then died right here, 10 years ago to the very day, and you want to camp out with a Ouija board and no weaponry? I give that a miss pal …I’ll be seeing you on the news!”.
The point I’m making is that here I find the scenario alien to me. You live across the road from an absolute nutter/DIY legend, hear some noises – more weird than all the banging, drilling and sawing you probably usually hear – and decide to investigate.
No, nope, nah, fffttt…..err…nooo! Call the fuzz, get them in there, job done. I’m not a fairy, I’m just not daft and I’m not going in without some backup and serious firepower – I want pockets as deep as Agent 47 before I get into some iffy situation.
Alas, this is what I have to work with. I alone must investigate the house across the street out of chivalrous bravery (or unprepared idiocy) for the trapped damsel. She is locked in the basement and guarded at all hours by the creepiest, moustache toting, dad cardigan wearing, goliath of a bloke who has way too much glue in the house for my liking.
Now this “Neighbour” is an absolute masterclass in Do-It-Yourself-ery. His house is a magnificent cross between suburbia and a creepy Disney Land. What was once a two storey structure is now an eight floored, roller coaster tracked, 4th floor swimming sensation. Which I have to navigate …and to be fair, with the lights off – I have trouble finding my own toilet.
So let’s get in there! Right? OK, where’s my crowbar? …no crowbar eh? No probs, no probs, wheres my lockpick?…not got that either eh? My suction cups? …abseiling gear? …well what have I bloody got? Binoculars, a Frying pan and a Red Key. Well after hanging around Erangel so much I know how dangerous a Frying pan can be but come on! Give me something.
This is “Hello Neighbor!” by “Dynamic Pixels” and published by “TinyBuild”. A unique concept, think any Escape room adventure meets Alien: Isolation meets the Burbs (a good ol’ Tom Hanks movie) and you will grasp it. You must navigate through a house of puzzles and tests to gain access to the basement all while avoiding the “Neighbour” (who is also a cardio savant) in hide-an-seek fashion.
Now this is where it gets interesting. The antagonising neighbour is fuelled by an advanced AI, as if being faster than you and practically psychic wasn’t enough he also learns from everything you do. If you keep going in through the front door, he starts laying down bear traps to catch you or CCTV cameras rigged to alarms, to foil your “totally illegal trespassing”.
I can attest to the high levels of panic felt while legging it away from Creepstash. Genuinely frantic mouse movements abound as I try to get through any window or door to run away while the git tosses jars of glue at me to slow me down… which to be fair is not needed as he’s faster than me anyway.
There’s no hand holding here, no real direction other than “there’s the house, mate …off you go”. From the off I decide to circle the house, to survey my surroundings and got spotted twice, leading me to circle the house 4 times while crying like a …macho weightlifting ninja, of doom. Suffice to say I saw the house exterior well, albeit quickly. I spotted a window to climb through and a button to push. So I vaulted that window frame like the love child of Batman and Faith from Mirrors Edge and smacked that button like a boss. It then took me 20+ minutes and getting caught numerous times to work out what the hell the button bloody does!
This is Hello Neighbor! A continuous trial and error engine in which you get punished by doing the same thing twice.
To be honest, I’m not even sure if I’m here to save anything or if Creepstash is actually the bad guy. The opening cinematic could be from my viewpoint or from whom/whatever is trapped in the basement. On the whole the game is a far cry from the usual horror games of this type – bright days and clear nights, calming suburbs – but there is definitely something sinister going down. There is a freshly dug patch of earth on the other side of the picket fence, the crashed car with debris scattered from its impact and CCTV guarding a heavily padlocked door, I presume leading to the basement.
What if Baron Von Creepstash is trying to keep something “IN” and I’m the bad guy trying to get it “OUT”. I mean, he has caught me a daft amount of times and hasn’t harmed me other than giving me a new outlook on the phrase “I am rubber, you are glue”. So maybe Vaderstash is actually the good guy and hes doing the best he can to stop something mean and nasty from escaping into the world.
Early concept work of the game has references to religious articles and Faust as well as some screen shots of an eerie shadow parked behind Stashman while he is having a cupper. So this theory may yet prove to be correct that you are in fact the bad guy …if you’d seen my vids on “The Forest” you would understand what I mean here, about finding out that you are in fact not the hero of this story.
Adding to the odd-ness is the building itself, flooded rooms, doors opening to nothing but a drop to the grass outside and a rail system. Audio cues and plain otherworldly scenes, I don’t want to spoil anything here but there are some moments where your jaw drops and you can’t stop saying “What the Fu…”
Visually pleasant and jovial, “Hello Neighbour” is far from a graphical masterclass but it’s not needed and doesn’t want to be. Its whimsical style is intentional, its purpose ever more present the deeper you delve into the house. The fact that you are already trespassing sets you off in a state of un-ease and the aesthetics seem to multiply this feeling of concern.
All in all, the majority of your time here will be spent trying to get to the house from the lawn outside without realising it. Taking part in a sinister cat and mouse stealth mission to uncover that the hell is behind that door! Are you the bad guy? or is the aforementioned Creepstash a dealmaker with the devil, hiding something malevolent below.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Hello Neighbour on Steam, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)