More like hide and shriek.
You’d be forgiven if you assumed like me that Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek was based on a cartoon. The cover depicts two young precocious looking children morbidly recreating a crime scene with a doll and ketchup while presumably the father whose corduroys, sweater vest, big moustache, and baggy eyes give the vibe of being the foil of their exploits. After some research, I found it’s actually an abstract prequel to a crowd-funded survival horror experience that blew up mainly from Lets Plays and streamers coupled with its seemingly kid-friendly look.
The loose premise - as one of two children playing hide and seek, explore and collect items that’ll allow you to solve puzzles that let you complete the level while avoiding the other child who will chase you down and catch you if caught, forcing a restart. Levels are broken into different abstract versions of their home, as if playing in an imagination version of the setting, which is actually a clever way to create diverse environments and not be constrained to one drab setting. Short vignettes weave a loose narrative that is mostly there just to tie each level together.
Frankly, Hello Neighbor is an exercise in frustration. Movement is akin to old first-person games that feel sluggish in movement with delayed actions. The level themes are varied, but unfocused in how abstract the puzzles are. You can choose help options, but it only produces oversized white arrows from the sky giving you a general direction of what to interact with. Left with open spaces littered with items I had no idea what to do, my experience broke down into a rote trial-and-error of using objects to see what would make things work, and praying I wouldn’t get caught by the kid looking for me. No context clues or instruction on how items connect or interact with each other is present.
The tension from trying to avoid the other child is the diamond in the rough. If you’re seen, a tinny sounding ominous music with a quickening tempo begins, and you begin getting chased. As the child chases you, if you look back, their walk is a skittering motion that is surprisingly unnerving. Unable to escape, the child jumps at the screen and makes a noise in a jump scare attempt that succeeded in shocking me each time even with knowing it was coming, to the point where I started just letting him catch me and look away if I knew he was coming.
Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek is a one-trick pony that had a game built around the premise of drawing a reaction out of the player via jump scares, which it does very well. If the levels and puzzles were more focused and honed-in, there could be a logical and interesting foundation for an experiential dread and tension. Forget moving out of the neighborhood, I’d suggest moving to the next county over.