Welcome to Rear Window if it were a Terry Pratchett story. Hello Neighbour really is more or less that. You play as someone who peeks in on someone living in the house across from you and behaving very strangely, seemingly hiding something in his basement. Your job is to sneak inside and find out what it is, as the building becomes more surreal with every step.
The much touted advanced AI used by the neighbour is one of the game’s biggest selling points. Sticking to examples set by the likes of Alien: Isolation, the game emphasises unease above all else. You know that he is nearby and you cannot fight him, leading to incredible tension broken up by occasional bouts of exciting chases. Taking him head on is out of the question, and if you rely on a few key tactics too often, he will quickly develop methods to counter them. Become complacent in relying on bear traps to win the day, and you’ll quickly find them being thrown back at your head.
Yet, while the Tom and Jerry meets Psycho antics are one of the most heavily advertised aspects of the game, the puzzle segments simultaneously make and break it. As none are signposted, you are left to scurry about trying to pick out details on just what you are facing and how to complete it. Many rely upon various objects lying about the house, while others hinge on use of the physics engine. When they are executed well, these reward intelligence based upon a skewed internal logic fitting the graphics. When handled poorly - especially in the third act - they become a source of non-stop frustration where physics based bugs and numerous graphical glitches can stonewall your every effort. This is to say nothing of segments which can apparently only be completed via omniscience, with solutions so convoluted that even the best players will be left stonewalled for hours on end.
The abrupt difficulty spikes would be bad enough in of themselves, but Hello Neighbour’s villain seemingly gains x-ray vision at random. You can find him countering your every move before you have even entered the building, or suddenly tracking you down with laser-point precision despite your every effort. These moments undermine the entire experience, and you can find yourself easily giving up in frustration.
Hello Neighbour has an extremely steep divide between its strengths and failings. There’s middle ground here, as you’re either bashing your head against a brick wall of bugs and a foe gone god mode, or it’s an intense stealth survival experience. While there is definitely a good game in here, and some excellent thrills, without a few extra patches it’s impossible to recommend.
HELLO NEIGHBOR / DEVELOPER: DYNAMIC PIXELS / PUBLISHER: TINYBUILD / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW