In 2003, Capcom released a PS2 survival horror game based on a computer generated anime series called “Gregory Horror Show”. The art style was simple and childish, with boxy characters and brightly colours. It was also a deeply unnerving game. Hello Neighbor is a similarly bright and colourful game that is equally unnerving.
You play as a new home owner in a quiet suburb or town. As you begin moving into your new abode something goes horribly wrong, your sinisterly moustachioed neighbour apparently covets your house, and, after a brief altercation he makes it his. What’s worse is that your neighbour seems to be doing something terrible in the house. The opening cutscene shows glimpses of a young boy trapped in the house, as well as hastily erected furniture barricades and a massive security door leading to the basement. He doesn’t take too kindly to visitors either.
Although your character doesn’t die when you are caught by the neighbour, Hello Neighbor is the very definition of a stealth survival horror game. Using a limited set of tools, stealth, and environmental interactions to distract the neighbour, unlock doors, and avoid detection, it’s your job to find out exactly what is going on in the house. It’s his job to catch you. To this end, the neighbour is powered by some pretty great adaptive AI which learns from what you’ve done and acts to stop you from taking that approach again. Enter via the front door and get caught and the neighbour might set a bear trap or security camera in front of the door. He may patrol the front of the house more often. Leave a door open behind you and he will become agitated and more vigilant in the knowledge that things are not how he left them. Being caught by the neighbour doesn’t mean death – rather he forcibly ejects you from the house. Luckily you are left with any inventory items you may have picked up. Of course, the next time you try to get into the house will be more difficult, so it’s best to remain unseen.
Hiding in wardrobes is a good way to avoid the neighbour, as is learning his patterns if he displays them or hasn’t had them interrupted by someone trying to break into his house. The neighbour’s cone of vision is wide but it can be avoided, and if you are spotted you can always try and run off the property or stun him with a thrown object. In the alpha demo, it’s possible to spike the neighbour’s milk with sleeping pills to knock him out for a little bit, but he definitely appears to be a light sleeper.
Despite the character art that would look at home in a Pixar movie or Team Fortress, Hello Neighbor, even at the early alpha stage, is a deeply unnerving game. The mystery of what’s in the house puts you immediately on edge, as does the music, and the unpredictability of the neighbour himself makes things sometimes almost unbearably tense. The current demo is a blast. We can’t wait to get our hands on the finished product when it releases in early to mid-2017.