Review – Hello Neighbor 2
When I first reviewed the original Hello Neighbor way back in 2017, to say I wasn’t impressed would be a massive understatement. It was a mostly miserable game built on the foundations of an admittedly excellent idea. A stealth horror game about infiltrating a neighbor’s house to uncover the dark secrets hidden in his basement. However, the reality of the game was a bit more complex.
Its great idea aside; Hello Neighbor was a frustrating experience. The game lost its main focus; diverting its attention from stealthily sneaking around to focusing heavily on solving cryptic puzzles that ignored all sense of logic. This was highlighted in its level design, which went from basic houses to huge towers, that were just ridiculous to look at. Puzzles and platforming became the sole focus in the later stages, and these two mechanics were Hello Neighbor‘s weakest points. It was an absolute slog to go through. Now just five years later, here we are with the first major sequel (after countless spin-offs). We’re coming into Hello Neighbor 2 with hopes that they can recover. Is this Hello Neighbor‘s redemption?
Hello Neighbor 2 is set in-between the timeskip in the original game. The neighbor, Mr. Peterson, is still alive and has fled his house. You play as a local journalist called Quentin (I think), who is looking into the missing children’s case; trying to uncover where Mr. Peterson is and what happened to the children.
Unless you are somehow a Hello Neighbor lore nut, then nothing in Hello Neighbor 2 will actually engage you. The plot is paper thin, and you don’t get any idea behind character motivations or what’s going on in the town. It’s as lifeless as it was before. Most of the actual storytelling is done through flashbacks, or an attempt at something a bit more environmental. This is great in theory, but just doesn’t work here.
Set in the open world of Raven Brooks, you will be investigating the inhabitants as the journalist. However, the open world is as basic as it could possibly be and brings nothing to the experience. Each level is now a different individual in a different house. Once you are done with a chapter a brief loading screen flashes up which spawns in the next NPC. Going to a house before their chapter will show an empty interior and no activity. What should be an open-ended investigation into the disappearance of children, is actually a really linear experience with very little interaction or investigation. And when I say no interaction I mean that. The only inhabitants are the NPCs that will eventually stalk you, and as a result the world just feels static and lifeless.
With my distaste for how unfocused the original game became, how does the sequel fair? Well, it’s certainly an improvement in most regards. Everything has been dialed back to allow Hello Neighbor 2 to refocus on its core premise. It’s simple: break into a house to uncover their secrets. For the most part, it does control identically to the original game. This is still a problem, and whilst the game has a lot less platforming, what it does have is still pretty bad. It’s often times far too floaty and imprecise. Inventory management is also clunky, with having to open the character’s bag to switch items.
Unfortunately, I never really found myself to be enjoying the game despite it being such an improvement, especially with its puzzle designs. Thankfully, it no longer requires mental gymnastics (or YouTube) to even figure out what you are supposed to do. By exploring the houses and having a look around, you are able to piece together what your goal is and how to achieve it, without the game explicitly telling you what to do. It’s reasonably well designed, and whilst levels aren’t particularly memorable, I didn’t outright hate them.
Completing Hello Neighbor 2 takes roughly four to six hours, depending on how much exploration you do and how quickly you solve the puzzles. On top of this, there is Day One DLC that has been bafflingly ripped from the game to sell as extra content. It includes two entire levels, which are reasonably sizable, and a helicopter drone. This content should absolutely have been included with the base game.
One of the biggest selling points in the game’s marketing was the advanced AI, that will adapt to not only your playstyle, but the community as a whole. I’m not seeing any of that here. In fact, the AI here is bewildering and some of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. At times they’re just seemingly unaware of you, even mere feet away from them, whilst other times they’re able to spot you around a corner.
If you get spotted just hide under a table, and whilst he can see you, for some reason he will just bug out and return to his search. If the NPC can’t reach you, it will reset itself. This becomes absurdly abusable to a comical degree, as you can sprint into a room you need to get into, then hide, and nothing of consequence will happen. Even if you do happen to get caught, absolutely nothing will happen. You will spawn outside and can just try again. Because of this, the stealth aspect of the puzzle-solving completely falls apart.
Visuals are also a major improvement as well. Whilst the art style is marmite-levels of love it or hate it (I lean towards hate here), from a technical perspective, it’s an improvement. The lighting has been vastly enhanced, giving Hello Neighbor 2 a slightly darker and more grounded visual style, whilst retaining the same style present in the original. However, and this is a big catch: it looks completely unfinished. When exploring the streets in open world, there’s very little to look at that’s of any interest. It’s all just looks and feels dead. When you get to the interiors, there’s plenty of detail, but there’s also a sense that the game is simply unfinished, with plenty of seams in the levels you cant see through. There are even instances of objects not being properly attached to the environment.
This shift back to the franchise’s original premise makes it a much more compelling game, albeit one that is steeped in a lot of the same issues. Despite being a huge improvement, it’s unfortunate Hello Neighbor 2 can’t find its footing, as it stumbles from one encounter to another without any real cohesion. If you are a huge fan of the original, you may or may not like changes made to the core design. However, if you are like me and hated the original, then Hello Neighbor 2 does show a shimmer of potential, although the franchise still has a really long way to go.
The visual design is still rough, but a technical and sizable upgrade from the original.
Refocusing a lot of the design into creating simpler, but more effective puzzles means Hello Neighbor 2‘s core design is a lot more consistent.
Sound design is inconsistent, to say the least. It can be hard to locate exactly where the neighbor is or what they will be alerted to.
Fun Factor: 4.5
Hello Neighbor 2 is a massive improvement over the original game, but its weak story, horrendous AI, and lackluster open world is disappointing.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Hello Neighbor 2 is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on PC. With an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM.
A copy of Hello Neighbor 2 was provided by the publisher.