Piss off neighbor. That’s a phrase I constantly mumbled to myself when playing tinyBuild’s overnight success, Hello Neighbor. In Hello Neighbor, players took on the role of a young boy that had far too much curiosity for his own good. The crux of play was to sneak into your neighbor’s basement to uncover his well kept secrets. One standout feature was that the neighbor, Mr. Peterson, was served as an advanced AI that would adjust to your behavior and tactics. Hide and Seek is no different, however, it sits on a much different story backdrop.
Now, taking into account that Hide and Seek may well pique your interest enough to see you picking up the first game, I’ll withhold any major spoilers. Hide and Seek serves as a prequel to the events of Hello Neighbor, giving fans of the series some clarity as to why Mr. Peterson is the way that he is – adding a layer of depth to the character. Here, players take on the role of Mr. Peterson’s daughter, who is playing gleefully with her brother via the use of their broad and collective imaginations. The set pieces are well struck and pulled together quite nicely.
Amidst the rather daunting backdrop, the neighbor’s kids frequently play hide and seek around the familiar family home. Now, to us, this treads on old ground. In fact, barely anything is out of place as far as Mr. Peterson’s home is concerned. However, through the lens of the imagination of the younglings, the home is converted into imaginary worlds. Worlds that set the foundation for each and every level within. It’s a perspective that I’ve come to appreciate in this media of entertainment, and something that’s well achieved here.
The story is slowly pushed along through, and in between, the transitions of each world. Mya, the neighbor’s daughter, is your conduit to this world. Aaron, on the other hand, takes on the role of the advanced AI that pursues you and adapts to your gameplay behavior at every turn. When I first played Hello Neighbor, I cant say that I was all that impressed with its functionality. I mean, sure, it played exactly as it should and it had some impressive features to boast about, but the game’s structure and its performance, left a great deal to be desired.
Unfortunately, Hide and Seek falls victim to the same ground, but mercifully not as dominantly. Whilst its performance is light-year’s ahead of its predecessor, at least as far as launch comparison goes, its structure wears thin fairly quickly. The game wastes no time at getting you into the thick of it, depicting the children playing nicely together throughout the home. Once it’s Aaron’s turn to count, players take Mya upstairs (there’s nowhere else to go) to hide her from sight. Though, before too long at all, Aaron bursts into the room to catch her.
Aaron takes another turn at counting, and upon guiding Mya from the room, players are immediately transported into her vivid imagination. No longer are you in the Mr. Peterson’s home, but in a vast garden that’s akin to the likes of a scene from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Here, you’re tasked with tracking down a total of sixteen stuffed toys and depositing them into a large nearby basket. These toys are placed all over the immediate environment, in such a way that you’re oftentimes required to think outside of the box to retrieve them.
This is where the puzzle elements of the game come into view. See two stuffed toys being guarded by a giant bird? You’ll need to work out how to encourage the bird to move before you can grab them and run. Spot a stuffed toy sitting on top of a high up ledge that you cant reach with a natural jump? You’ll have to use your brain power to suss out how to get fifty foot in the air to nab it. Caught a glimpse at a teddy that’s deep in a miniature cave? You’ll need to work out how to attract its attention. This, is how puzzles work in Hide and Seek.
All the while, Aaron will be patrolling the environment as he seeks out where you are. What makes Hide and Seek more refined than its predecessor is that it feels more fluid, in regards to both its execution and its difficulty curve. Aaron has a lenient line of sight, and will only pursue you if you’re daring enough to pop up whilst he’s facing your direction. The problem, however, is that it’s far too easy to circumvent this routine by climbing on a large rock. Even if Aaron sees you climbing it mid-chase, he’ll stop dead in his tracks and give up.
In fact, that’s putting it lightly. What he really does is forget that he was ever chasing you, seemingly resetting his awareness once you gain a certain height. This alone removes a layer of immersion, and makes it all too easy to deploy some cheap tactics. What’s worse is that this style of play is often necessary, given that Aaron will seemingly patrol areas that you need to manipulate. This really only becomes an issue in the first level, given that the wide open design makes it pretty tough to try and blindside him, or even outsmart him.
Still, it’s not at all hard to beat this stage, and for the initial serving, it does well at feeding you into the basics of play. Much like in Hello Neighbor, you can move, run, jump, pick up, and interact with specific items and objects. You’ll do this regularly to access other areas of your map, and indeed, obtain goods that are necessary for progression. For instance, in the first stage, one of the stuffed toys will fly high around the map in a circular motion. Grabbing the spud-gun, you’re able to gain height and shoot it in its path, allowing you to pick it up.
Should Aaron be alerted to your presence, he’ll give chase. If he captures you, the penalty usually consists of being placed back at the starting point. However, if he captures you once you’ve collected a fair portion of needed items, he’ll deduct a handful of said items and place them at random locations around the map, forcing you to seek them out again. I found that even if I ditched items that I had in my inventory, these too would be swept up and randomly placed elsewhere. It’s tense as the going gets tough, I’ll give it that much.
This, by and large, is how the game plays out. The difference mainly being the theme in which each game of Hide and Seek is based around. Take the second level, for example. This rests upon the same concept as the first level, only instead of collecting stuffed toys, you’re collecting bags of money in a game of cops and robbers. The openness of the garden is traded for dark streets with patrolling officers whistling at you whenever you get too close, alerting Aaron of your location. The level of variation is well maintained throughout play.
It helps to keep a degree of repetition at bay, despite the core mechanic not altering too much. Furthermore, due to the several structures and buildings that break up Aaron’s field of view, the second level ends up being far easier than the first. The game’s fluctuating difficulty stings a bit, especially in the face of the game boasting its advanced and adaptive AI. It would have been nice to see some more effort focused on this element of the game. Though, even with that in mind, I cant say that I didn’t have some fun during my time here.
I appreciated the hint system that’s in place, which will optionally pepper the environment with large arrows that signify a point of interest. That, and the manual respawn in the event you get stuck in a rock. The game’s constant cat-and-mouse design sits well with its puzzle-based foundation, collectively going hand in glove to produce an experience that will no doubt please fans of the series. That said, if you’re new to the series, or, you’re looking for your next puzzle fix, you might be disheartened due to the game’s few drawbacks.
When all is said and done, Hide and Seek doesn’t take the series to new heights. It plays it safe, and in doing so, doesn’t really do much to stand out alongside its predecessor. It’s also much less scarier; Aaron, although forceful in his approach to tracking you down, hardly holds a candle to Mr. Peterson’s creepy demeanor. Regardless, there’s enough content on offer here, content that, for the most part, provides thrills and entertainment at the best of times – if greatly lacking elsewhere. Now, onto the visual and audio design.
Hide and Seek isn’t striking to look at. There’s a portion of texture issues throughout all of its levels, giving off a very unrefined look overall. The character models look decent enough, as with the first game, but again, the lack of polish is slightly a put off. I can say the same about the game’s audio, which does very little to capitalize on what pros the game relays. Nevertheless, as alluded to above, fans of the series will appreciate this the most. If, on the other hand, you never enjoyed it or expected depth, Hide and Seek is unlikely to sway you.
Hide and Seek doesn’t do enough to stand out alongside its predecessor, nor does it attempt to build upon the franchise outside of its plot movements. Despite the game’s various locations, the absence of depth and the lack of evolving functionality only opens the door to repetition. That said, the game’s performance and its core structure remains well set, offering bite-sized fun that will no doubt please fans of the series, far above all else.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.