Hello Neighbor for the Nintendo Switch Review
Have you ever wondered what that one strange neighbor across the street was up to? Well, that may seem like a creep thing of you to ponder, but developer tinyBuild takes this concept to a whole other level of freaky in their stealth/horror, puzzle title Hello Neighbor.
The main premise of Hello Neighbor has you play as a kid who peeks inside your neighbors window to see him locking up a door where some loud screaming is coming from. This, of course, intrigues the boy enough to want to see what’s going on inside.
Some elements of Hello Neighbor were changed up for the new Nintendo Switch version. There were many exploits for you to be able to take shortcuts and speed through certain parts. Some exploits still exist, but a few have been fixed. For example, in the first level there is a satellite dish that was placed to prevent players from jumping to an area where they could skip most of the first act. It took me about six hours to get through without shortcuts or knowing locations of the keys. The story takes place across three acts with one finale. Your goal is to essentially find items and keys to help you get to new locations in an area. While playing, things start out simple and get more convoluted as you go on.
Trying to avoid and evade the man trying to find and capture you makes for a harrowing experience that freaked me out on a few occasions. The strange man does everything he can to try and ensure you don’t succeed in collecting the necessary items and keys, or solving the puzzles in his yard, his house, and basement. In some ways Hello Neighbor feels like an old-school early 2000’s game with a modern polish. Now, I’m not saying everything is polished, there are still bugs, glitches, and framerate hiccups, but for what it is there can be enjoyment derived from it.
You’re free to explore the area completely, however it’s up to you to figure out how to get in locked doors or find windows to climb through. The old-school feel’s freedom is also Hello Neighbor’s downfall though. There is nothing explained to you, only showing you a key placed on a table in the attic and then just lets you go with now hand holding. For that reason, it’s nice to see Hello Neighbor reward critical thinking and logic. For example, you can reach a secret area by, quite literally, just stacking boxes and then climbing them. It’s a simple solution to a puzzle, but if it works in thought it should work in the game.
Sadly, that doesn’t redeem the flawed gameplay design and what feels like many unfinished segment still present in the Switch version. Hello Neighbor claims to have learning AI for the neighbor that gets better at setting traps and learning how to play the game, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Throughout my gameplay sessions, if I wasn’t in his home the neighbor would just go about his day. When I would actually try to sneak in his home, his traps seemed somewhat random in execution. Furthermore, there were weird moments where he’d be able to sense where I was in a completely different part of the house and other moments where I’d be able to hide right behind him and not be noticed.
The music in Hello Neighbor was solid and, if anything, were the best parts of the games presentation. When just wandering around the neighbor’s house you’ll be left to hearing the ambient sound of the world and the objects around you, such as feet stepping on grass, the front door opening, and other environmental sounds. However, once the neighbor has a hunch of your whereabouts the dramatic ominous sounding music kicks in and certainly gets your blood flowing as you try to figure out the unpredictable AI’s movements. It really sells those moments of suspense and it’s one of the most redeeming features in Hello Neighbor‘s presentation.
Overall, Hello Neighbor had an interesting premise that genuinely had me interested with the story. Unfortunately, that was about the peak of the excitement. Outside of occasionally trying to mess with the bad AI, the finicky level design with controls that were more frustrating than humorous was a letdown. Puzzles seemed all over the place, only occasionally rewarding logical thinking with secret rewards and areas, but then completely ignoring it for the main objective areas. Ultimately, Hello Neighbor falls into the category of games where the premise and idea sound great, but just wasn’t executed well enough. The way it is now just feels poorly put together with a cool idea in mind.
Review by Josh Brant, reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by tinyBuild.