- Developer: THQ Nordic
- Publisher: HandyGames
- Release Date: 8/10/2020
- Price: £12.99 / $14.99
- Review code provided by HandyGames
Introducing: Neighbours back From Hell Switch Review
Serving justice to jerks is one thing, but in Neighbours back From Hell, you’ll be downright torturing the surly man next door – and stalking him around the world. Worse yet, it’s all broadcast on a television show, so every horrific prank is laughed at by an audience. (Who’s the real bad guy here?) The striking claymation-style visuals only add to the comedy, allowing for some hilarious moments to be painted in a most quirky way.
Breaking and Entering
Once you’ve waltzed into your neighbour’s home or vacation spot uninvited, it’s time to sneak around wreaking havoc – and the game makes this quite easy: the camera is versatile, you can view the poor victim at any time, and passing through doorways and hiding spots is a breeze.
It’s vital not to get caught, or we’ll end up getting pummeled by our target – losing one of three lives, or prompting perfectionists to reset and try again. (Quitting or restarting like this prompts the game to ask, “Are your sure?” It was the only typo I noticed, but one I saw a lot.) There are a set number of pranks you can pull, although it’s up to you just how and when to set them up.
An anger meter on the lefthand side of the screen will shoot up after each booby trap goes off, and maxing out the meter causes him to flip out – something we want to do as much as possible for a higher score. So, learning his patterns and setting up the most efficient series of back-to-back traps is how players will get the most points – and the most satisfaction.
In order to set up traps, you’ll have to scavenge materials around the map and figure out how to cleverly use them in the environment. For example, putting a sea urchin under the neighbour’s beach blanket will make for a spiky surprise, and replacing his coffee with potting soil will be a rude awakening.
Each time you pull off a prank, the neighbour will freak out and react to the issue. The animations are great, and each of these instances is accentuated with a laugh track from the “audience,” but the long reactions contribute to one of this game’s main downsides. There’s a bit of a waiting game as you set up traps and bide your time as the slovenly man lumbers through his cycle of actions; it’s especially long if you’ve set up a series of traps, and must wait for him to get mad about each thing. This would’ve been a great place to add a speed-up toggle.
Aside from those moments, sneaking around and discovering the use of each item is a pleasure, since the maps are full of visual detail. There’s no “objective” and no hints, aside from a few quips from the character – welcome omissions which make these small maps feel a bit bigger and ripe for exploring. Although the music can get repetitive, it’s in keeping with the upbeat theme.
Misery Loves Company
Just when you get into a groove, the game throws a few more curveballs at you: new characters to look out for, including some meddling pets.
Through written level intros, we learn that the neighbour has his sights set on a special lady who doesn’t seem to care for him very much – nor does her young son, who we see getting bullied by the rude man. (If you needed justification for this vandalism and torture, there you go.) Watching his interactions with them becomes an ongoing theme in the levels. Thankfully, they don’t get angry upon seeing us – rather, we’re blessedly ignored.
Not so for Mummy. She will also beat you to a pulp on sight, adding a new layer of strategy to the game. While laying down traps, it’s important to keep an eye out for where your target and his dear mummy are, or whether they’re incapacitated. It’s no simple matter to sneak by a sleeping person, though – or one of your neighbour’s sleeping pets. Nudging the sprite along too quickly will cause them to wake up and raise an alarm, during which you’ll have to high-tail it to a hiding spot as the neighbour runs about looking for trouble.
Completing all of the pranks in good time and in an efficient fashion will reward you with a high score, although later levels can be ended prior to finishing every single possible task. The game itself can be completed fairly quickly, and there isn’t much use to going back and replaying it once you’ve gone through and achieved great scores on each level.
Although Neighbours back From Hell isn’t going to occupy much of your time, it may occupy your mind for a while – much like a funny video or movie might. The smooth sneaking and off-the-wall reaction animations are nothing short of satisfying. Plus, with such a simple premise and easy controls, there’s no need for a refresher if you want to pick it up during short pockets of time. It’s also thought experiment: in the end, who’s the real menace?
- Comical claymation style and animations
- Smooth sneaking controls
- Scores add sense of completion
- Waiting for animations, cycles
- Repetitive tunes
Neighbours back from Hell is a comical strategy-puzzle experience that’s sure to make a positive impression with its slapstick humour and claymation art style, despite its relatively short length and lack of replayability.