PAX South 2017: Secrets Need Seeking in Hello Neighbor [Preview]
Moving into a new neighborhood can be an exciting, yet harrowing experience. This is especially true if you happen to have moved into the neighborhood of Hello Neighbor, where bizarre and mysterious happenings are afoot. Our neighbor was up to some sneaky shenanigans, but he wasn’t just going to let us march around his place. Hello Neighbor is a game of stealth-horror, puzzle-solving and more than a little unnerving facetime with your local creep.
The demo opened up on our unnamed protagonist moving into his new neighborhood and unpacking some boxes. The game used this time to introduce us to the limited tools we’d use to navigate the game, like using certain items to access new areas. It isn’t long after you’ve settled in that you notice across the street that your neighbor seems to be up to something bizarre. With nothing else to do, we decided it was a good time to introduce ourselves to our neighbor by breaking into his place and seeing what he was hiding.
Hello Neighbor is entirely centered on sneaking around your neighbor’s house, finding the tools you need to go deeper and avoiding detection by your freaky neighbor by whatever means possible. Entering his house for the first time clued him to our arrival and the nearby cabinet supplied us with a quick option for hiding. We’re clued into the mechanic that tells us he’s nearby with a growing vibrating noise that goes all the way to a slight screen shaking terror when he’s very close. He’s a roguish-looking, mustachioed gentlemen who might not be quite as terrifying if not for this alert system that seemed to drive the maligned intentions he has for intruders.
Once you have everything you need to know, it’s a game of cat and mouse between you and your neighbor. There are dozens of usable items, hiding places and distractions to be used around the house. You can look through keyholes and windows to spy on him and get a better feel for your surroundings. On one occasion, we made our way into the bathroom and found some sleeping pills. In the kitchen was a jug of milk. We were able to slip the sleeping pills into the milk, laying a little trap for our neighbor (he drinks straight out of the jug if you needed proof he’s evil) and waiting for the opportunity to get a key off his belt. If he was watching TV, we could also have turned off the power outside and broken in through a window while he checked the problem to get into an otherwise inaccessible room. There are tons of creative opportunities in Hello Neighbor just waiting to be discovered.
Of course you need to be on your toes too. Your neighbor is savvy to tricks and if you get caught, he’ll be alerted to how to defend against you for the next attempt. In the demo, being caught in the main part of the house just meant being thrown out on our butts, but it also made things quite harder once the neighbor was alerted to our current tactic. The AI makes him far too random to attempt to accomplish the same thing twice in a row and it challenges players to adapt just as the neighbor does in order to get anywhere.
As a horror game, Hello Neighbor might be a bit brighter than your regular monster and gore-filled terror affair, but it’s nonetheless pulse-pounding. It’s not about jump scares and morbidly violent visuals as much as it is unsettling in quite a number of ways that don’t require that stuff. The scares come from the anticipation of dodging around your neighbor and the genuine alarm when you know he’s seen you and is after you. Getting caught and being face to face with this stoic-looking fellow for a moment genuinely made our heart skip a beat and the sudden mash on the piano when he’s on your tail doesn’t hurt either.
Hello Neighbor has a secret and we want to know what it is. Our time with this game and its adapting level of challenge made for a puzzle that left us in suspense at nearly all times as we tried to figure out what was going on. The environmental interaction of the house was enough to keep us exploring and experimenting for a good long time and we were still left believing there was quite a bit more we could do with what was there. What’s our neighbor hiding in Hello Neighbor? We don’t know, but there’s more than enough bread crumbs to make us curious, even if it makes us dread every little noise we hear and room we enter.
Hello Neighbor is set for release on PC sometime in Summer 2017.