Hello Neighbor 2 is a first-person, puzzle-solving sneak ‘em up that is developed by Eerie Guest Studios and published by tinyBuild. Despite the “2” in the title, this is actually the fourth game in a series that gained massive popularity in 2017. I even remember seeing plushies of The Neighbor at GameStop around that time, which was confusing. My experience with previous games has been fleeting at best, but I really gave Hello Neighbor 2 a fair shot and played it to the credits. Surely after five years, four games, and a healthy fanbase, they have figured out how to make this game work, right?
No. No they did not.
It’s not all bad, there is a lot about Hello Neighbor 2 that I quite enjoyed, but the issues present really marred the core experience, which is a shame for a game that has so much going for it. Let’s bring the good and bad to light in this review of Hello Neighbor 2.
"It’s not all bad, there is a lot about Hello Neighbor 2 that I quite enjoyed, but the issues present really marred the core experience, which is a shame for a game that has so much going for it."
Perhaps the aspect of Hello Neighbor 2 that works the best, and indeed what might be the reason for its explosion in popularity, is the world its developers have created. It is vibrant, colorful, and has a sense of playfulness that is conveyed through the art design and the game’s strange dialect. I was immediately taken with the town of Raven Brooks (or Wayron Croobs) and its inhabitants. However, the world of Hello Neighbor also has an undercurrent of dread and fear that had me feeling uneasy for the majority of my time with it.
The brightness and playfulness are harshly juxtaposed by the game’s subject matter and gameplay. You’re sneaking through the house of an alleged murderer, you’re in constant fear of being caught, and that’s before even considering the breaking and entering. Hello Neighbor 2 begins by showing The Neighbor dragging a NPC into his house. This is definitely a way to inject some fear into a game and the developers did a great job of crafting and balancing these two halves of Hello Neighbor 2’s world.
Speaking of Hello Neighbor 2’s gameplay, it is pretty novel. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the gameplay consists of finding a way into a location, solving various puzzles scattered throughout complex areas, using gadgets, and avoiding detection by an imposing character of some sort. The character hunting you down won’t always be The Neighbor, and you’ll visit several locations over the course of Hello Neighbor 2, but the tenseness and dread are largely consistent throughout.
When it works, at least.
"The character hunting you down won’t always be The Neighbor, and you’ll visit several locations over the course of Hello Neighbor 2, but the tenseness and dread are largely consistent throughout. When it works, at least."
In my time with Hello Neighbor 2, I experienced many issues that either altered or ruined the experience of the game. The first issue arose when I attempted to use an early gadget you get in the game, a surveillance drone. You’re supposed to equip the drone, throw it, and switch to a portable controller to get a live feed of the drone’s camera. Imagine my surprise when I attempted to use the drone, and it was invariably tethered to the building you start the game in. No matter where I went, that tether remained, and I was never able to use this feature. It’s not game-critical thankfully, so I just gave up on it after the first hour or so.
I continued to play the game, solving puzzles in the first location: The Neighbor’s house, which is now a crime scene. The first half of this area went pretty smoothly, as I had managed to sneak in without alerting the cop who was guarding the house. However, after a certain point, that cop begins patrolling inside the house, which made my blood pressure pick up a little bit. Until the cop walked in and out of the back door to the house. Over, and over, and over again.
He was stuck in some kind of loop, and even when I made some noise upstairs (by leaving the drone to make room in the extremely limited inventory), he didn’t seem very concerned with anything other than entering and exiting the house. I thought it was kind of funny, but it also completely took away any tension that existed before the cop fell into his unfortunate loop. Similar issues occurred in later parts of the game, but nothing to this extent. It’s really a shame that this happened so early because it painted my opinion of the rest of the game early on.
"I played through the game on PS5, which looks fantastic, but there are real problems related to how the player interacts with the world that make the console experience feel inferior."
At least the puzzles in the game are mostly decent. They definitely ramp up toward the end, but there isn’t anything too taxing as long as you’re paying attention and exploring the environments. Subtle things like the colors on a banner indicating the order of a set of numbers and drawings indicating where you should go next are things you can expect, and I appreciate the game not holding your hand too much in terms of what to do and where to go. Hello Neighbor 2 kindly requests that you use your brain, and I like that.
The original Hello Neighbor game was designed for PC, and many things about its presentation appear to have remained the same, to the detriment of its experience on consoles. I played through the game on PS5, which looks fantastic by the way, but there are real problems related to how the player interacts with the world that make the console experience feel inferior.
Hello Neighbor 2 is a first-person game, and the aiming experience in any first-person game is critically important. Here, it wavers between functional and awful, depending on what you’re doing. For most things, it’s serviceable. You can look at buttons and objects and interact with them just fine if they are on the larger side. But much of the game revolves around keys, which are small objects with tiny “hitboxes” or areas where you can trigger the interaction. This would be fine if I was playing with a keyboard and mouse, but the tuning of the right analog stick is not cut out for fine movements like that by default, and you unfortunately need to do them semi-frequently.
"I really wanted to like Hello Neighbor 2. The world and story are gripping and enthralling, and the puzzle/chase gameplay is fun (when it works). I can see why the series has become so wildly popular. But the things that either don’t work or otherwise get in the way of the experience really got me down."
Continuing with the game’s controls, I had some frustrating experiences in other respects. Hello Neighbor 2 assigns the “interact” button to R1 on the PS5. The “use” button for the gadgets and items you have equipped is also R1. There were a few times when I was running away to hide in a closet and brought up the drone’s remote-control screen instead of jumping into the closet, which kicked me out of the house and forced me to start my process again. This happened frustratingly frequently, and it feels like the default buttons for these actions should have been separated.
I really wanted to like Hello Neighbor 2. The world and story are gripping and enthralling, and the puzzle/chase gameplay is fun (when it works). I can see why the series has become so wildly popular. But the things that either don’t work or otherwise get in the way of the experience really got me down. Maybe the inevitable Hello Neighbor 3 will get it right.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Fantastic art direction and world-building; Solid gameplay formula.
So many bugs; Control scheme issues on console.