Stealth horror series Hello Neighbour returns with the sequel to the cult classic that was all over YouTube. Developers Eerie Guest and tinyBuild have expanded the game to the whole town of Raven Brooks with an open world and a lot promises. The game retains a lot of what made it popular, but fails to build on it in a way that feels worth it. The game leans more towards the family friendly aspect more than stealth or horror. There’s definitely enjoyment to be had with this title, but fans are better off playing the original as the sequel spreads itself too thin in both the environment and story
Story – Lacking or Up to Interpretation?
You play as an investigative journalist named Quentin. You are looking into the numerous disappearances of children in Raven Brooks. The investigations takes you beyond Mr Peterson’s house into the broader town. The baker, taxidermist and mayor are all suspicious, and thus you have no choice but to break into their homes and rummage through their things.
The story for Hello Neighbour 2 is told through short cutscenes without any dialogue, and environmental clues, which leaves room for interpretation but felt lacking to review. Whilst you can broadly follow what to do from clues in the environment, there isn’t much direction as to where you should go. You do find a paper aeroplane with “HELP ME” written on it. However that’s more or less as far as it goes.
This may be because the released version seems to be stripped back from what was intended. You can’t go to whichever house you want or follow characters around the town to find out who is suspicious. The game may have a lot of secret lore and hidden story elements, but for the most part it doesn’t feel like you are investigating anything. Just breaking and entering to solve puzzles.
The ending especially left a lot to be desired. Almost all the cutscenes feel like they are cut short. Overall the story was a bit disappointing. It serves more to give some reason for the gameplay rather than being intriguing itself. If you’re not a huge fan of the series it will feel a bit aimless. I’ll leave it to the game theorists to find all the secrets to better decorate the game world.
Gameplay – Good Puzzles but Underwhelming AI
The gameplay for Hello Neighbour 2 will be familiar to those acquainted with the series. You take Quentin around the small open world neighbourhood. There are certain houses you must infiltrate, each with a multi-step puzzle. You’ll need to find items to open new areas which let you solve previous puzzles in the house. Meanwhile an AI resident roams the building. Once you solve the puzzles you get a brief cutscene and move onto the next house.
The puzzles for the most part are pretty good, although a bit more obvious than in the original. A few have that wonderful ‘Aha’ moment when you figure it out. Some of them are a bit tedious. There is also some platforming required. This often felt janky, with climbable objects and jumpable distances being unclear leading to some frustrating moments.
There’s also the AI which received a lot of attention in the marketing. It’s supposed to adapt to your actions, with the AI adding traps or securing routes you’ve taken before. This ended up being disappointing. The AI never really seemed to change it’s behaviour to block my previous attempts. Their pathing would occasionally change, but that was about it. They react well to noises you make, such as stepping on glass, but overall the AI was underwhelmingly simple.
Ultimately the gameplay is satisfactory, but disappointing. The trade off of the open world is that each location feels short and undercooked. The AI and puzzles lend themselves more to brute force than stealth gameplay. You’ll more likely run in, grab what you can then hide in the same place as usual. There’s a lack of consequences as well. You get thrown out the house if caught so there’s not much tension.
Graphics and Audio – A Cartoon Environment
Hello Neighbour 2 retains the cartoonish art style of the original, although now in higher quality. Whilst the cartoon art direction arguably undercuts the horror aspect of it, it looks great for what it is. It gives the feel of a spooky game you could play with your kids. Each AI character is well designed and each environment is striking in it’s own way. The more you pay attention to your surroundings the more there is to see, with the art style allowing the game to have visuals fit in nicely, whilst still being clear. However the game lacks any standout visuals. It looks great for a cartoon horror game, but a little more pizazz wouldn’t hurt.
The audio is similarly strong. The various soundtracks fit the mood and create a good ambience as your sneak around. The faster and more tenser soundtracks that kick in when you’re being chased work well to get your heart going. The same can be said for the noises of in game objects. The noise of shattered glass, creaking floorboards, doors closing and footsteps all help immerse you in the game, with ears open for any sound of the inhabitants of the building.
Visually and audially the game is a more finetuned version of the original. It firmly establishes its own world and sense of identity amongst more generic games.
The DLC – Hello Neighbour at its Best
The Deluxe Edition of Hello Neighbour 2 has some of the best parts to review. There are two DLC locations, as well as the Hello-Copter. The Copter is a drone you can pilot to get an aerial view of the town and solve puzzles in new ways. The DLC maps are some of the strongest parts of the game.
The late fees DLC takes you to the town library. The librarian will try to catch you as you find and return books to their shelves. It’s a largely simplified version of the game. Mostly taking place in one giant room. The puzzles are pretty basic but it makes for a fun romp, almost made for speedrunners. It’s a short and sweet map that’s a nice addition to the main game.
Back to School
The Back to School DLC is probably the best part of the game. It highlights the struggle of moving the game to an open world. In the main game each house is pretty small, and thus short to complete as it won’t take long to have found everything. This DLC puts you in the labyrinthian halls of the local middle school, with the grouchy groundskeeper hunting you.
Having one large location to explore, with numerous well thought out puzzles made it a highlight of the review for Hello Neighbour 2. The visual story telling is at it’s best here. The plot isn’t as obscure as it is in the main game. This time you understand what’s going on and it has a satisfying conclusion. The AI is still disappointing, but the DLC does show that the formula for the game can work really well.
Hello Neighbour 2 Deluxe Edition was played for review on Steam with a key provided by tinyBuild.