Tag Archives: tinyBuild

Hello Neighbour review

Hello Neighbour is a game I have been eagerly awaiting for the past few months. The developer tinyBuild describes it as a “Stealth Horror” game, as you try and infiltrate the house of the titular Neighbour. The uniqueness of the game is that the neighbour has an advanced AI, so will learn from your actions, and plan his defences accordingly. Just what secrets does your neighbour have?

I have been looking forward to Hello Neighbour for most of the second half of 2017, as it was previously planned for a September release before it was pushed back to December. From all the previews and Let’s Play’s that I have witnessed, it was very appealing to me to break into a dodgy neighbours house to see what his secrets are. It is a very basic human trait to be nosy and curious, especially around the macabre. And Hello Neighbours opening scene, where you witness a possible murder, certainly makes you want to find out more.

The game starts with you trying to break into the house, with the neighbour patrolling. If he sees you then he will chase and catch you and you restart back on the road. There are distractions you can use, such as turning off the power to the house, to lure him into areas away from your intended location, and within the house there are cupboards you can hide in to prevent your capture. Objects can be picked up using the RB button, and thrown with RT, in order to break windows to gain entry. The AI is extremely clever (although almost too clever) as if he catches you in certain areas then he will place bear traps or cameras to catch you on the next time you try that route. Hello Neighbour’s opening level is a puzzle game where entry into a certain area of the house will give you the item needed to unlock the next area – thankfully – it’s reasonably intuitive.

The horror aspect of the game is heightened with the amazing use of sound design when the neighbour is close by or is chasing you. This audio is inspired heavily by the great horror films, and instills a feeling of terror as you are hiding and running. It is also visually terrifying when you are captured, although this shock wears off as you are caught by the neighbour for the 100th time. And you will get caught a lot. The aforementioned AI is almost too good. I was caught in a entrance to a particular area a number of times, which resulted in a camera going up. I destroyed the camera with a well aimed box throw and when it was discovered two cameras went up and the area soon became impossible to pass. It actually resulted in me having to restart the level, which I am sure was not the required action. There is an option to put the neighbour into a more friendly mode, which will limit the trap setting – I’ve no problem admitting that I did use this feature later on in the game.

There are three levels (acts) to Hello Neighbour, with the first two following the same premise. Act two changing the goal from breaking in to the house, and there is much fun and intrigue to be had in exploring the house and trying to fathom out just what the neighbour is up to, especially when you find a swimming pool with a robotic shark in the attic! Apart from the challenging neighbour, your progress is held up by a janky control system. Picking items up is hit and miss as to whether it will work – I found it worked better when RB was pressed in conjunction with a directional move. Sometimes a thrown item just dropped to the floor in front of me and sometimes it sailed miles away. The character movement was also iffy, with an unwanted sideways movement happening when trying to jump through a window.

One of the biggest problems I found in act two of Hello Neighbour was the puzzle required in order to complete the level. It required a jump so difficult to pull off that you just wouldn’t naturally think of doing it. I was struggling so much that I resorted to watching solutions on YouTube. If you didn’t know this jump was needed you wouldn’t even try to complete it. Even with the solution it took me twenty minutes to actually get it right. The aforementioned swimming pool had no purpose which was a real shame. And then Act Three happens.

Up to this point your character is a young boy, but Act three starts with your character returning to the street as an adult. In a strange turn of events the Neighbour’s house has turned into a sprawling concoction of buildings, joined together with roller-coaster tracks with a windmill on the roof. The gameplay remains the same, with you needing to get into the house to find out it’s secrets. But at this point it seems that the game loses all logic and sanity. There doesn’t seem to be any structure to the level and how to complete it. At one point a door takes you to a supermarket mini-game, where you have to stealthily push a trolley along a train track without being spotted by mannequins. And at that point I am just thinking Why?

Hello Neighbour suffers from a complete lack of direction all the way through. A few hints here and there would not detract from the game, for example, to explain why I couldn’t pick up a specific item which I later (through Google) found out was because it was too hot.

The game has a great premise, but completely fails to deliver on the gameplay and story on how to get to an ending. I will attempt to continue Act Three so I can find out what happens, but I am so bored and frustrated with the gameplay that it just feels like a chore to do so. The achievements are also really strange with none at all for the first two acts, and then they are all crammed into act three.

Ultimately, Hello Neighbour feels unfinished and rushed, and it still contains bugs where it is possible to fall through the map, meaning a game restart is needed. Hello Neighbour was also the first game since Turok on the Nintendo 64 that gave me motion sickness, which although will be limited to a small amount of its player base, certainly added to my disappointment and unwillingness to continue playing.

Thanks to tinyBuild and Dynamic Pixels for supporting TiX!

The Final Station review

An intriguing beginning, superb ending, but highly repetitive and simplistic middle makes The Final Station a swing and a near miss as a survival horror gem. There’s some great ideas here, with its pixel art and colour palette proving some wonderful atmosphere, but its flaws outweigh a lot of the good in end.

You are a lone train conductor transporting equipment for the military, as well as survivors you find along the way, after an apocalyptic event begins. This is the second occurrence of this event, all told, with it originally occurring over a century ago. They call is the Visitation, suggesting some kind of alien menace; it results in possessed, zombie like humans lurking in buildings and on streets that mean to do the uninfected harm.

The experience is split between two sets of mechanics. On the train it’s your job to keep the bucket of bolts running, maintaining both the train itself and the equipment you’re carrying as well as keeping your passengers healthy and fed, otherwise they’ll die during the journey. When you arrive at each stop you must venture out into the world in order to find provisions to re-stock your health packs and food for the passengers, scavenge for materials to craft more bullets for your weapons, find any survivors and send them to the train, and primarily find a security code to allow you to carry on to the next station.

The Final Station

As you’re exploring these stops you’ll find NPCs with titbits of information to share about the world, as well as notes that paint a larger picture of the Visitation as well as shine a light on some of your personal concerns. But these stops are also full of the infected, coloured entirely in black, apart from their eyes, making them look like extras from Limbo. These foes come in a variety of predictable classes: the ordinary shambling sort, the faster scuttling sort, stronger and finally armoured. You can try to avoid them, shoot them with a small collection of weapons – although ammo is scarce – or punch them, either with your fists of the butt of your gun.

However, what seems like a threat to begin with is soon revealed to be a mere nuisance. The lack of information The Final Station gives you at the beginning builds a false sense of difficulty that lessens significant with a few trial and error mishaps. The enemies can largely be dealt with through melee attacks, with a couple merely needing finishing off with carefully aimed bullets to the head. Meanwhile, the locations are so linear it makes exploration routine; you’re unlikely to miss anything.

The Final Station

The med packs you collect can be used to heal yourself as well as your passengers, potentially providing an interesting shared resource to manage. However, once you’ve sussed out the combat you’ll find you won’t need very many at all for yourself. Food is purely for the passengers but it’s rare enough to put your patrons at risk of starvation, so managing it to keep everyone barely alive is a bit tricky and the most likely cause of any passenger deaths.

It’s an unfortunate discovery that the challenge is predicated entirely on the lack of a tutorial, however, the setting and story are still intriguing mysteries to be explored. Underground tunnels and structures have been built that give The Final Station a War of the Worlds feel. Meanwhile, the reveal of how the equipment you’re transporting will be used is exciting and cool. However, repetition does hurt the pacing a great deal. Stations begin to mostly look the same and you’ll find yourself willing each train journey to be the end of the current act in the story. It becomes dull and predictable; any fear the infected stirred originally is completely lost in the mid-game and exploring each station becomes a chore.

The Final Station

Then things spring to life in the final act. Mysteries thicken, twists and turns trigger your fascination, questions are answered and the ending itself is brilliant. It makes the whole journey worth it.

The Final Station is an interesting survival horror that starts strong with an intriguing, mysterious and frightening force to overcome, and some clever survival mechanics during the train journeys. The middle threatens to ruin the whole adventure, stripping the fear from the enemies, revealing exploration to be linear and overstaying its welcome to make it feel repetitious. But that ending is a return to form, capitalising on the narrative superbly. It’s worth the ticket price, but only barely.

Thanks to Xbox, tinyBuild and Iron Galaxy for supporting TiX