Hello Neighbor has proven to be pretty popular amongst gamers and streamers alike, even if it wasn’t necessarily so well-received by critics. Maybe it was the unique concept of facing off against a constantly learning AI foe, maybe it was the colourful and almost Pixar-like visual style, or maybe it was just the tension of knowing that you could be walking into the vicious Neighbor’s path at any moment – who knows? Either way, the game had a heck of a lot of buzz, so it was only natural that we’d see more releases take place in the game world.
Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek is the first example of that, with it playing as a prequel to the first title – rather than taking on the role of a random kid in the street though, you instead play as the Neighbor’s daughter Mya as she takes part in some games of hide and seek with her brother Aaron. It makes for an interesting gameplay experience, though it’s one that has its fair share of shortcomings that those new to the concept of Hello Neighbor might not be able to easily overlook.
Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek delves a little bit deeper into the Neighbor’s life and how he ended up like he did, all whilst showing how his actions affected his children too. It’s a tragic tale, with the Neighbor suffering the loss of his wife and Mya and Aaron having to cope not only with the death of their mother but also a grieving father too. An air of sadness is present throughout and it’s not only conveyed through a series of harrowing cutscenes but also in the level-design where it slowly becomes darker as the game progresses.
The core gameplay experience involves playing hide and seek with your brother, with Mya having to head across a series of imaginative levels to collect toys and solve puzzles as Aaron hunts her down. It’s quite similar to the concept of the original game, except rather than investigating this peculiar house you’re instead exploring open worlds that embrace the imaginative side of childhood. Of course, there’s also the sense of dread of knowing you’re being pursued, though the large size of the environment alleviates it a bit – Aaron is always in plain sight so you don’t have to worry about accidentally encountering him in some random room, whilst it’s always easy to hide from him in the abundance of hiding spots that are littered across each level (even if he actually sees you head into the hiding spot). It’s definitely not as nerve-wracking as the first game, for better or worst.
It’s a simple gameplay experience that works well enough for the most part, but it does have its fair share of issues too. Firstly, collecting the toys can be a pain thanks to the sheer size of the environments and how well some are hidden away. There’s a time-limit imposed on the player too, so sometimes you’ll find yourself scouring across the map as you desperately try to find that last toy that’s seemingly out of your grasp. Add to that the fact that Aaron is pursuing you (and getting caught resets the level and changes up each toy’s location) and it can make for a pretty frustrating time.
Then there’s the fact that the gameplay mechanics aren’t properly explained to the player. Hello Neighbor was guilty of putting players straight into the game with little instruction and it’s the same here. In fairness, Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek offers a much simpler experience than that found in the first title, but there are still some aspects of the game and its puzzles that could’ve done with a bit more of an explanation. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly some satisfaction to be found from solving some of the more elaborate puzzles without needing any help, but a bit of guidance here or there would’ve been appreciated.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its good points too though. The level design is on point for one, with each embracing the children’s imagination in varying ways. It’s the sort of thing that might invoke memories from your own childhood, with Aaron and Mya even taking on the role of make-believe ‘cops and robbers’ on one level – the way in which real-world objects like sofas and cushions are tied into their design just makes it feel all the clever. Add to that some fun platforming and puzzle-solving and it’s easy to see that Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek certainly has its share of enjoyable moments.
It’s just a shame it’s not consistent, with the aforementioned frustrating moments and a lack of tension sticking out a lot more over the game’s five levels. Add to that the fact that it comes at a high price point for what is essentially a glorified piece of DLC and it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed by the overall experience.
Developer: Dynamic Pixels
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC