If there’s one thing you can say about TinyBuild, it’s that the brand is really dedicated to making their games a success for players across the board. Sure, it’s not always a great start from the beginning, and sometimes they need some time for their games to finally get polished up (still waiting on a Guts & Glory patch), but they always deliver in the end. It’s been close to a year since Hello Neighbor has been known across the internet, and people at large have been able to watch it change and evolve, sometimes wildly, since it’s initial alpha inception. Concerns have been raised, voices have been heard, and Dynamic Pixels has done some incredible work to bring this buggy, wonky game all the way to the big three consoles. And, finally, Hello Neighbor has snuck onto the Nintendo Switch, and the results are fairly interesting.
Hello Neighbor is the story of a young boy who believes that his neighbor is up to something big, scary and strange. By chance, he sees his neighbor locking his basement, out of breath, like he’d just forced someone or something down there. The young boy, apparently having no sense of self-preservation and unable to understand why the police exist, makes it his mission to sneak into the house and find out what’s happening down there. This first, poorly decided step begins several acts of espionage, skullduggery and survival, all at the hands of a mustachioed, very broken man. Players aware of Hello Neighbor may be a bit surprised at this setup as it flies in the face of everything the PC release was hinting towards, but whatever, it at least lends a bit of logic to how things play out, and also scales things appropriately.
Hello Neighbor plays from a first person perspective, which, for those who’ve read my reviews before, can be a bit pain in the motion sickness, but things are pretty stable and fluid, for the most part, so it doesn’t affect me nearly as badly as others have in the past. The primary objective for each of the acts is to safely make it to a certain waypoint, be it the mysterious basement door or simply a bid for freedom, and finding out what needs to happen between point A and B. The first act is really just a simple stage setting: getting into the neighbor’s house and discovering where the key might be is significantly easier than how things play out later in the game, but it’s crucial to play and understand how the rest of the game is going to work out, as the Neighbor (who may or may not have a name) is wont to allow you to traipse through his property unhindered. In fact, the Neighbor proves to be a cunning, educated foe, who is touted as someone who learns your patterns and adapts to them. For example, trying to go in through the front door and getting caught will lead to glue traps being set up for future excursions. Windows that you break will, eventually, have video cameras posted to monitor your entrance, and these cameras may need to be dealt with. The Neighbor does have a vanishing point of education, however, so you can eventually go back and recycle old tricks and ideas once he’s caught up and deterring all your more recent shenanigans.
Conceptually, Hello Neighbor is a darkly hilarious expedition, and one that actually ramps itself up very well. Divided into three acts, longtime players need to get at least to Act II to start to see the hazards and levels of problem solving they encountered in old alpha and beta builds. Act III is a return-to-form of sorts, as you take over the helm of an adult, no longer a child, and the house of the Neighbor becomes a labyrinthian funhouse of traps and tricks. There are a huge number of items that you can find, pick up and utilize in a variety of ways, from glue traps to umbrellas, bowling balls to apples and, most importantly, boxes. Yes, in spite of how far this game has come, the cardboard box is still your absolute best friend, and you’ll want to practice stacking these boxes at your earliest convenience: even though there are probably cleaner and faster ways to get to certain areas of the home, the tower of boxes stands proudly as the best escape and shortcut for a number of areas. Nearly every item that you find can also be a temporary stunner for the Neighbor as well: if you think you’re in trouble, just throw things at the dude and pray for the best. Who knows, maybe you’ll get enough of a window to find a safe place to hide!
The console release of Hello Neighbor also brings two important things to the table, cohesion and stability. First, cohesion. There was never really a great reasoning or catalyst behind the events and all the nightmarish visuals that you ran into with Hello Neighbor: the game was menacing, sure, and pretty surreal, but there wasn’t a good reason for it. Why is the Neighbor keeping secrets? Why the hell do you care? Though the plot can be a bit disjointed, Dynamic Pixels has done a bang up job of creating a narrative that does, for the most part, make sense, as you yourself become the captive in Act II, and the encounters with the Neighbor give you flashes into his own backstory and motives (spoiler: he’s not a happy man). Sad and existential as things might be, the necessity to give at least a half-hearted answer to the Why of the game is really important, and I think it’s addressed in a way to satisfy both new and old players.
But stability is the big one, and I think TinyBuild should take some serious credit for bringing the Nintendo Switch edition of Hello Neighbor to heel. For a game that was infamous due to buggy results, glitchy gameplay and simply insane moments of crashes and unhinging, the Nintendo Switch version seems to run very well, with no noticeable drops or frameskips in the time I spent playing. Coming in at 2 GB, the game installs at about the size you’d expect, and things ran pretty smoothly and successfully. After my time with Guts & Glory, I was honestly pretty scared, but there isn’t anything to worry about here: the Neighbor’s moustache is well animated, bloodthirsty and well cared for.
Best of all, there has been one addition to the game menu, and that’s Friendly Mode. This important, all-inclusive toggle gives you the ability to play Hello Neighbor on a much, much less frantic level, almost sedating the Neighbor in comparison to how he normally is. I highly recommend new players go ahead and toggle this on to give a better chance for exploration and understanding the game without needing to watch videos or have frustrating trial and error. While the Neighbor is far from asleep, he is slightly slower than usual and, I feel, significantly less aware. If he sees you, alright, he’s coming for you, but his hearing seems a lot worse too. There were a few times when he’d chase me across the street, shake his head, and walk back inside, and I would simply walk on his heels into the house and turn into a different room. It’s laughably easy for veterans to play this way, which is why it might be a good idea so that you can break the bad habits you built up from old builds.
Still, the game isn’t totally without faults. There are times when rooms are simply empty, leading to a bit of a letdown when you’re eagerly looking for the next place to turn. Especially from Act II onwards there are almost Rube Goldbergian solutions to some puzzles, which builds frustration rather high. And the Neighbor isn’t perfect, still: you’ll hear the ominous music of him approaching, but he might seriously be running into a wall or a piece of furniture, unable to navigate around it, and it’s up to you to wait him out. But, and this is important, this happens far less frequently than it used to.
All in all, the Nintendo Switch version of Hello Neighbor is a truly solid build, and way more fun than I experienced with my PC screaming as it chugged along and glitched out all over the place. The Neighbor is one of my favorite villains of all time, and Dynamic Pixels did him a solid with a real backstory, even if it’s a bit cliched. With fingers crossed for the Secret Neighbors multiplayer to come to the Switch version soon, players should definitely grab the standalone as-is now and get acclimated: you want to be ready to greet the neighbors, don’t you?
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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