Hello Neighbor from 2017 was a thematically creepy game. It followed the story of protagonist Nicky Roth, who, through the player’s input, infiltrated the labyrinthine house of an unhinged man with a few too many dark secrets rolled up his sleeves. Without giving too much away, the original’s three main acts were filled with the same sort of horrors one might expect to find if they were to rummage around in their shady next-door neighbor’s basement in the middle of the night — only to find the aforementioned neighbor creeping around the corner with a hatchet and a menacing glint in their eye.
But the average neighbor doesn’t keep macabre secrets behind traps and puzzles in their basement, which means Hello Neighbor 2 could be the next big thing for anyone who ever fantasized about solving mysteries in the dead of night. Don’t try this at home — er, your neighbor’s home — but do try Hello Neighbor 2.
I went hands-on with a demo of Hello Neighbor 2 at PAX West several weeks ago, and what I discovered was a delightful 30-minute chunk of tinkering and toying amid the hiding and frightened scurrying that shortly followed.
The first moments of my Hello Neighbor 2 demo were rather humbling. I woke up in a barn, dazed and confused, with nothing more than a crowbar and some tchotchkes to bang together until a giant door unsealed itself so I could meander off to the great outdoors and, ultimately, into my neighbor’s home. It took me a few minutes to figure out the physics and inventory systems. Still, I eventually learned that I could throw a rock to break a glass case containing one of several gears required to open the big door, and that alone was a victory worth celebrating.
I scampered out of the barn and off to the big clearing outside, where I got my first look at the house I was meant to be sneaking around in. The Hello Neighbor 2 demo presents a rather compact map, focusing on a two-story house with a porch and the surrounding grounds. Despite not actually managing to solve any of the puzzles, I was pretty delighted to poke around and get a feeling for the intricacy of Hello Neighbor 2’s level design. There were plenty of random objects to pick up with different prescribed uses, like a shovel I used to dig up a certain treasure.
There was also a pretty neat section where I needed to quickly adjust a series of picture frames in a set allotment of time without being caught, an affair which proved way more complicated once the neighbor took notice of my presence.
Breaking into a neighbor’s home wouldn’t be quite so exhilarating if there wasn’t a constant looming threat of being caught and, most likely, turned in to the authorities. Full-time neighbor and antagonist Theodore Masters Peterson, the very same from the original Hello Neighbor, tends to do things in his own (and usually violent) way. Luckily, if you get caught in the first level of Hello Neighbor 2, he’ll simply send you outside without any of the items you might have collected in your inventory. That’s probably a fair deal, especially considering what he did to the last person he caught snooping around his house.
The AI is as sharp as ever, and I felt like the devilish neighbor was waiting around the next corner. That’s because the house is also pretty open, with rooms intersecting one another in a spiral shape. This left plenty of opportunities to be ambushed. Getting used to the house took a bit of practice, and even though I learned the layout pretty quickly, the added stress of being followed or chased was ever-present.
Noise is something that you’ll need to be conscious of as well, as the floor is covered in glass shards. Some puzzles, such as opening a safe, require you to make noise, but it’s also possible to confuse the AI assailant with sound as well. For instance, I lured the neighbor into a room full of squeak toys while I ran in the opposite direction. This was just one of many possible strategies, and I’m very interested in seeing how Hello Neighbor 2’s open-world approach plays out later on when I supposedly have a much larger play space to occupy.
If you can’t wait to get your hands on it, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear the same Hello Neighbor 2 demo I tried at PAX is available to the public. You can currently download it for free on Steam. I can confidently say Hello Neighbor 2 is worth keeping your eye on ahead of its slated release date on December 6 on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and Nintendo Switch.