[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
People reading my work on a website called “One Angry Gamer” might be surprised by how well rounded and even handed I am in my approach to reviewing video games. After all, even bad games usually represent the culmination of hundreds and thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears from a dedicated team working long hours and wishing they were at home having a long bath. Or maybe down the pub.
I’m going to dispense with all that sort of thing for a while today though, because Hello Neighbor is such a steaming bag of shit that it really doesn’t deserve proper critical analysis. When I first booted this broken, shambolic mess up on my Xbox One X, I felt quite hopeful – various early access pieces written by other websites seemed to point towards advanced AI and variable, innovative puzzle solving. Let me tell you straight; the only way that a normal person could mistake the moronic AI of Hello Neighbor as advanced would be if they were absolutely off their tits on acid, possibly whilst still reeling from a dose of ketamine that could stun Dumbo.
Hello Neighbor is so fucking bad, I stopped playing about ten minutes into the third act and you know what? I’ve deleted the game from my hard drive and there is absolutely no chance that I’ll be downloading it again unless I hear that it’s been radically overhauled. I felt like that might give me a challenge when it came to writing the review, but it turns out that according to various people who clearly have more patience than me, Hello Neighbor only has three acts anyway. But the length of Hello Neighbor (or the price, considering the amount of content, if you prefer) is hardly the biggest issue, given the games other problems.
Let’s start from the beginning, then. Firstly, Hello Neighbor just looks like crap. It has a kind of interesting cartoon art style that looks like it might have been just about acceptable in 2006, but even that is only really true when the gameworld is static. When something moves (and the only thing that really does is the titular neighbor) it will do so using an embarrassingly low sequence of frames which – honestly – I think results in the worst animation I’ve seen since, God knows when. Maybe the PS2 era, but my memory fails me.
I really don’t feel like graphics define games however, although they do help me to suspend my disbelief whilst other aspects of the game provide additional immersion. The concept of Hello Neighbor is interesting enough to have drawn my attention and I would be willing to push through poor visuals if that were the only problem, but after the initial opening cut scene, Hello Neighbour completely fails to retain the players interest.
Players act in the role of an unnamed youngster who, upon hearing something suspicious from a house down the street, decides to investigate. The concept is interesting and you would think it could lead to some fun stealthing and a bit of breaking and entering. Instead, the stealth aspect revolves around keeping out of the neighbors line of sight whilst probing his house for weaknesses, then finding items like keys and frankly – fuck knows what else – in order to somehow gain access to places like the basement.
Even in the two thirds of the game that I saw, some of the puzzles were so obscure that the creators of Monkey Island would probably be smashing their heads against the TV in frustration. Sometimes items don’t spawn. Sometimes they spawn in places where you can’t reach them. You’ll get bored of searching and inevitably get caught, which is when you’ll realise that getting caught means nothing anyway – there’s no risk whatsoever. I quickly learned that the best way to play Hello Neighbor was to draw the neighbor out, then speed into his house and just run around until I found something of interest. Advanced AI? My arse.
Another problem then is that item manipulation is a bloody nightmare. Whether it was the only way or not, I don’t know, but in the first act I found myself fixated on the idea of accessing the house roof by piling up boxes. Doing so required me to smash at the shoulder buttons like a crab to pick up and put down the boxes, and sometimes when putting them down, the physics engine would just launch them into space, or right across the street. It was absolutely infuriating.
What can I say? Hello Neighbor is just a hateful, hateful pisstake of a game. The fact that it costs £30 is an absolute abomination. I couldn’t believe that this was a full retail game and not a Preview Program one until I actually saw it on the shelves in GAME. What possible justification could a publisher have for pushing this shit out? I cannot imagine, frankly. Please, never consider buying Hello Neighbor. It is absolute garbage and the very fact that it was released in the state it is currently in is borderline fraudulent.