I’ve had some very nice neighbours in my lifetime. But I have also had some nightmares. There’s been one guy who brewed his own beer and played Pink Floyd on loop while singing along every night. But then I’ve had another who insisted on hanging out his washing in his underwear, whistling the theme tune to Dad’s Army. So when I heard about a game where you can seek revenge on the badly behaved neighbours I found myself smiling with evil glee.
Neighbours back from Hell is a remaster of the original game, Neighbours from Hell, which was first released in 2003, tweaking the first two seasons of the original game but adding in a couple of extra seasons on top.
You play the character of Woody, an everyman type guy who is happily enjoying his suburban bliss when the new neighbour, Mr Rottweiler, arrives next door. Mr Rottweiler is loud, disturbs Woody’s peace, and is absolutely fine with his dog killing Woody’s flowers by urinating on them. It’s safe to say that Woody looks to enact revenge, creeping into the neighbour’s house and – much like in a twisted Home Alone scene – creates pranks and disasters around the house so Mr Rottweiler loses his mind. Strangely though Woody has invited a TV crew to film the whole thing and it is via this where Neighbours back from Hell plays out like a reality prank show, taking you from his house, to a cruise ship, and off on holiday in China, Mexico, and India.
Each episode in a season concentrates on an activity that Mr Rottweiler is doing: for example in one episode the theme is about the neighbour getting fit, another is focused on him doing some DIY, and there is one which is all about art as Mr Rottweiler tries his hand at photography and sculpture. You are presented with rooms in a house, like a bathroom, kitchen or bedroom area, all placed on several levels. Areas change and doors open up to new areas in different episodes, like a basement area which is initially out of bounds. Mr Rottweiler will take in a loop of the house while he is doing his activities. If we take my initial example, he might be doing some yoga in the living room utilising a book on moves, then he moves to the basement to work on the chest expander that is attached to the wall.
Throughout Neighbours back from Hell, Woody can’t be in the same room as Mr Rottweiler or he will get beaten up and lose a life. He has three lives in total, and after that, it’s game over. What you have to do as Woody is to find items around the house or in specific locations that will cause pain to Mr Rottweiler; a screwdriver that may help that chest expander fall apart, or a different book which may see your neighbour tie himself up in knots. Basically, you are attempting to ensure that your neighbour is met with all sorts of twisty mishaps.
In each level you will be left with several pranks to pull off in order to find completion. This may mean you only need to action a few of the set number of pranks available, but should you wish to go crazy and pull them all off, you can. Further levels are unlocked after you complete the previous stage, with additional seasons coming into play once you have completed a set number of pranks in the previous season.
For all the madness, Neighbours back from Hell is actually a nice surprise, and when you initially start playing it will feel a bit like a mix of Hitman strategy with the stupidness of Mr Bean. Finding the multiple possible combinations of setting up pranks is fun and rewarding, but I did feel my interest waning by the second season, and once you got into the rhythm of watching the loop of Mr Rottweiler, while setting traps, it all becomes a little bit dull. Yes, there are variations in the level designs, the variety of locations, and different pranks, and this means that at times it can be clever and funny, but I feel that as an overall experience it needs more surprises and different elements within the gameplay, if only to keep it fresh. A change in pace would be appreciated too, or some extra spice like timed missions or your neighbour’s loop changing as he responds to the events happening to him.
Visually and Neighbours back from Hell has a tone that is cartoony and over the top – a bit like Wallace and Gromit in parts. It’s a design that works very well. Unfortunately, the animated set pieces when the pranks work on Mr Rottweiler tend to slow down in frame rate and stutter, but overall the effect is fun, raucous, and can, at times, be a delight. Sound-wise there is a lovely bouncy TV game show-styled soundtrack that, much like the gameplay, starts off well but does begin to grate after a while, however there are some steadfast effects and cartoon noises relayed to great effect.
Neighbours back from Hell on Xbox One has a style and a tone that is going to split the community – you’re either going to fall in love with it straight away, or it will just make you cringe. The humour and style is cartoony while the game mixes stealth and point and click adventuring to a reasonable degree. However, after a while the game doesn’t do enough to keep interest levels high, and it needs to switch up the gameplay dynamic. That said, the locations, characters, and concepts are magnificent, and so if you’re after something completely different then Neighbours back from Hell may be worth hopping into – if only so you can get your revenge on those next door pests.