The idea behind the Hello Neighbour series of games is ingenious. A stealth horror game that actually learns from you, making each attempt progressively harder? It’s a game concept that is so blindingly obvious, and yet few had attempted it prior Dynamic Pixels; 2017 hit ‘Hello Neighbour’ – fast forward to 2018 and we have the release of Hello Neighbour: Hide and Seek, a prequel to the main game, that delves deeper into the life of the formidable Neighbour – but sadly ‘Hello Neighbour: Hide and Seek’ struggles to hold up to the brilliance of its predecessor.
‘Hello Neighbour: Hide and Seek’ shifts the focus away from the main antagonist of Hello Neighbour, instead focusing on the seemingly child-like antics of the neighbour’s children: Mya and Aaron. You play as Mya, as you and brother play an innocent game of hide and seek. In the first stage, Mya must run around a savannah collecting toys and other cuddly animals while avoiding a wild lion, also known as, Aaron in dress up. It’s an innocent premise that becomes increasingly darker as the player progresses through the story, uncovering the dark and depressing story behind the Neighbour’s family life.
Players of the original Hello Neighbour will find the gameplay very similar. The controls are simple – you traverse across the maps (which are admittedly significantly bigger than the house from Hello Neighbour) collecting toys and other items that help you solve puzzles. You must be on constant watch, however, as your brother patrols the map in search of you and will quickly pursue you if you’re sighted – sadly, there is very little challenge when escaping your brother. I was routinely able to walk directly up to Aaron, run away and hide in a bush and never be caught, despite doing it intentionally obviously and in plain sight. When your pursuer is easy to escape and generally not threatening, it makes the game significantly less enjoyable.
Hello Neighbour was exciting as the Neighbour was unpredictable and could crop up anywhere at any time – seeing him skulking around through windows was genuinely terrifying and made you have to plan your route meticulously. In Hello Neighbour: Hide and Seek, it’s not as challenging. Due to the open world that the game inhabits, you can easily spot Aaron from around the map and it makes him easy to avoid – not to mention the eerie music and visual effects that are thrust upon the player if you even dare to look in Aaron’s direction.
The one mechanic that drew me to the original Hello Neighbour, the constantly improving AI, was seemingly absent in this game as I played through it – admittedly, I only played through the first stage and so it may be implemented better later one – but still, I wanted the same challenge that I had in the first game. There is seemingly no punishment for failure as you respawn and can start again, with no change in environment or goals you were trying to reach.
On the topic of the environment, however, Hello Neighbour: Hide and Seek have absolutely nailed its level design – the one level I played through was clearly set in the house’s living room but from the perspective of a child. Large cliff faces were created out of pillows, a large Ostrich was constructed out of a chair and sticky-tape and many of the obstacles you needed to get through were made out of other household appliances and furniture. If there’s one thing Hello Neighbour: Hide and Seek managed to retain was it’s sense of imagination, continuing the surreal and often impossible design of the house from the first game.
I’m sure the game’s story does get interesting and opens itself up to plenty of deep game theories – but the lacklustre antagonist and repetitive gameplay wasn’t enough to keep me hooked. Hello Neighbour: Hide and Seek feels much more like a £30 DLC, than a true prequel – which is a shame, as the Hello Neighbour series had plenty of potential.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*