What is going on with Hello Neighbor?
Chris O’Connell asks what is going on with Hello Neighbor?
There are two things that I love to do on a lazy Saturday afternoon, spy on my kooky neighbor across the street and play suspense games that raise my blood pressure to dangerous levels. So naturally, I was super excited to get my hands on Hello Neighbor which allowed me a chance to do both without having to look up from my screen.
In the game, you play a young man trying to figure out what the hell is going on across the street. Your objective is to get past your incredibly fast and ever-present neighbor so you can see what lies within his basement. The game is due to be released at the end of August and sadly that is about all we know.
The game has had several Alphas released to the public, but the overall story has been kept under tight wraps. With each version, players hoped that they would learn more about why a mild mannered Russian suburbanite like yourself would want to peer into a basement with tons of different locks on it. These hopes were only to be met by unique and frustrating mechanical faults. The lack of dialogue and on screen prompts would be all well and good if the game wasn’t so buggy. The most important mechanic in a suspenseful stealth/puzzle game is being able to interact with the world, without which the game is just an elaborate game of tag. Right now, Hello Neighbor is, unfortunately, a brightly colored game of tag.
When you can interact with the house and the puzzles, it takes a government funded think tank to figure out what the hell you’re supposed to do. I spent more time researching how to complete the first few areas than I did playing the game. If by luck I completed a puzzle, I had an overwhelming sense of, “How was I supposed to know that?” And there is no shortage of gamers who felt the same way.
Hello Neighbor is currently looking to set a record for most walkthrough videos for a game before it’s released. There are so many across the Youtube landscape all trying to crack the code. The best advice I can gather is that clipping and using dev commands are encouraged over actually completing puzzles as intended. While the comment section’s main consensus is that no one seems to know what is going on.
The most recent version of the game has shown slight progress. The player character can be seen moving from a small flat into the fabled house across the street in the opening of the game. The neighbor is nowhere to be found. Just as you are about to unpack, you quickly change perspective to the original player character from previous Alphas and the neighbor is tending to his house. This jump has had Youtube buzzing.
Does this mean you get to play as the neighbor for a brief moment at the beginning? Will we finally know more about the story and how all the puzzles are linked? The most popular theories to come out of this Alpha is that either the player character is hallucinating/imagining this chaos in the suburbs after being evicted from their flat. Or The player character and the neighbor are one in the same and the game is all taking place in their collective mind. The basement then is where some dark secret is locked away.
If any of this is true, they would be interesting roads to explore. However, these are only theories at this point drawing from a very small amount of knowledge. Objectively, the intro is so barebones and out of place that nothing is gained or lost by adding this intro.
“If by luck I completed a puzzle, I had an overwhelming sense of, ‘How was I supposed to know that?'”
We don’t know any more about why the neighbor built such crazy additions to his house, we don’t know the significance of the basement. We don’t know what is real and what is fantasy. It is an intro without a bridge connecting to the main game. If anything, it proves that the developers see the lack of framework in the game, but instead of addressing the fears and concerns of players they have just exacerbated the issue with this new intro.
For me, it shows that the developers aren’t really sure how to put a motive and reason behind the game. To them, the basement is mysterious enough to suffer through clunky controls and difficult puzzles. The intro is more appeasement than a true plot point. The “why” either just doesn’t matter or won’t matter until you reach the end. To me, that is not good game development.
The new information that we do get from the developers are videos about how great the AI of the neighbor is. With these vignettes showing off the inner workings of their AI system. When you play the game, you don’t witness any of it. This neighbor is not the Alien from Alien Isolation and he is not as smart as they claim him to be either. I have experienced two modes to the neighbor, always right behind you or couldn’t be bothered to figure out where you are in his house. The advertised intelligence is more serendipitous than pre-programmed.
But this game is still in development, so kinks should be expected. If only one Alpha was released we would all sit back and expect the problems to be solved by release. The unnerving part of Hello Neighbor’s development is that there are four early versions of a game with little to no progress in both story and mechanics, it is truly disheartening. The closer a game gets to the release date, the more the world should make sense; Unfortunately, for a game with such promise as Hello Neighbor, we are not seeing that. The loudest alarm bell came a few weeks ago when it was announced that by pre-ordering Hello Neighbor, players would get a second game free form GOG. That is never a good sign.
Hopefully, I am wrong. Hopefully, the Alphas that the Youtube community and I have been picking apart are just half-baked builds that are meant to get us hooked on the game. But in all honesty, it’s a terrible strategy. If there is one thing I know about the game industry is that if your Alpha is this broken near release date there isn’t much hope for your game.
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