The horror genre is by far my preferred genre of choice when it comes to any form of media entertainment. Be it games or movies, it’s rare to find me picking anything else when it comes to relaxing for an evening in front of the telly. One thing that’s always grated on me however is just how disappointingly predictable and often linear most horror experiences are. Whether it’s the obvious ending to a film or the predictable jump scares in most horror games, it’s becoming harder and harder to find a horror experience that truly excites from start to finish.
Back in 2017, Hello Neighbor brought about a kind of horror experience that hadn’t been done before, introducing an enemy that learnt from your actions rather than placing pre-set scares throughout the adventure. The end result was rather enjoyable.
Now though Hello Neighbor is back for more with Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, but does this prequel adventure have what it takes to maintain the excitement set within the series foundation?
As you start the game, there is immediately a sense of dread as one memorable face returns early on – that being the face of previous enemy ‘the neighbor’. This time around though, our neighbor isn’t quite the same guy we’ve come to know from last time out and after an early cutscene showing a more caring and much less angered side to him, you begin to wonder what went so wrong.
In this adventure, players step into the shoes of the neighbor’s children, or more specifically Mya, his daughter, as her and her brother, Aaron, enjoy the harmless fun of everyone’s favourite childhood game, hide and seek. Much like the original experience, there’s no tutorial to speak of in Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, and in the early stages this is truly frustrating, seeing you run around a seemingly warped level created from a strange state of Mya’s psyche, completely lacking any knowledge of what was supposed to be done.
After a good hour of frustration, plenty of trial and error and the uncovering of hint options within the settings, I was finally able to find my way through the game’s rather odd stages – of which there are five – to uncover the dark reality of what caused our neighbor to go from a rather cheerful chap into the shady and creepy character he is today.
So the idea of each stage is rather simple; it’s hide and seek, plain and simple. But whilst hiding is an essential part of progression, it isn’t all quite as cut and dry as that. Throughout each stage, players will have a collection of items they need to collect before placing them in a basket to progress. However in order to do this, you’ll need to evade an overbearing stalker… that of Aaron. Instead of being creepy though, he’s simply the one looking for you in the game of hide and seek.
Each of the unique stages found within are rather open in design, set out as imaginary open world areas that have been created within the children’s minds. Sadly though, whilst it’s always nice to engage in a friendly game of hide and seek, this one isn’t half as exciting as the original was back in 2017.
As I mentioned, each stage sees players hiding from Mya’s brother Aaron whilst trying to locate and collect a number of hidden items to place in a basket to progress. The first issue here is that hiding isn’t exactly easy, and should you be spotted, it only takes a matter of seconds before the brother is on top of you and you’re forced to restart the stage. Another irritation is that the items hidden within each stage could quite literally be hidden in the tiniest of nooks and crannies and you must find each and every one if you hope to progress. There is an option within the settings menu to help with this should you really be stranded, but even with this on, players are still only pointed in the rough direction of an item; you can be left searching for quite some time, despite not really knowing what the item you are hunting down actually is.
For me, this is a bit confusing as whilst the game is billed as a game of hide and seek, the reality is it actually comes across as a hide and explore based experience, with an overbearing antagonist hot on your trail, waiting for even the slightest slip up.
What’s even more disappointing however is that unlike the first game, Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek doesn’t seem to replicate the same exciting and unpredictable A.I. behaviour of its predecessor, meaning you won’t find Mya’s brother learning from your actions. This feels like a real step in the wrong direction as in the original it was a big part of what kept the game feeling fresh and engaging. With that removed, and enough playtime thrown in, it doesn’t take much to eventually figure out the pattern of behaviour followed by the A.I.
The overall experience of Hide and Seek may be one that many will struggle to enjoy, however there is one positive aspect that is well deserving of a mention and that is in regards the well-crafted and heart felt cutscenes that fill in the blanks of the story from the original game. These may indeed be a highlight, but they don’t by any means make up for the rather lacklustre gameplay on offer throughout.
Should you be a fan of the original game and were hoping for more of the same, then chances are you’ll be disappointed with what is on offer in Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek. Sure, there are some story moments to take note of, but with very little definition to what the developers are trying to achieve, and with each stage marred with confusion as you try to figure out what’s going on, this prequel raises more questions than answers… all whilst failing to provide the same level of excitement as last time out.