The popular Hello Neighbor series has finally dipped its toes into the shallow end of the multiplayer game field with tinyBuild’s latest title Secret Neighbor. Launching an Alpha Christmas version of the game, players can party up together to try and unlock the basement once more. However, this time one of the players will be playing as the neighbor himself while disguised as another child.
When you load into the lobby, the first thing you see is the outline of the other five children that would make up for a full game. Pinning six players together and randomly selecting one of them to be the neighbor in disguise, the overall idea of the game is pretty straight forward. Work together to collect the six keys needed to unlock the basement and hope that any child that partners up with you isn’t the neighbor ready to grab you.
Child players get a total of two empty slots to work with, one of which I highly suggest having a flashlight as you will need it to see. The other can hold any item so that you have an unneeded tool that you can use to throw at a fellow player. Throwing the item at a player is how you stop the neighbor from grabbing you as you can throw any item at them to cause a light stun. This also reduces the players health, so hitting a player that isn’t the neighbor is counter-productive. Once all the health is gone, a child player dies and there is no respawn.
Neighbor players get a total of four empty slots, two of which are taken up to be a present box for them to hide in and a radar that shows where all the blocked doors and child players are currently at. The other two slots are the same as the child players and switching between the child and neighbor character models is as simple and quick as pushing a button. Once you have been found out though, child players will start avoiding you at all cost, so keep your sneaking skill on high alert. If they do find you out and start throwing items at you, unlike the child players the neighbor gets to respawn.
The house is much larger this time and the keys can be anywhere in the house, so you better split up and cover as much ground as possible because the neighbor player can usually grab everybody up rather quickly. In fact, it seems like five child players really isn’t enough against the neighbor player when it comes to finding the six keys. This default set up can be changed, from amount of keys needed to open the basement and length of time on the time limit, but I didn’t play a single game on the default settings that didn’t end with the neighbor winning.
I did like how when a child player is grabbed by the neighbor player it says that the child went missing and a bunch of the “simming” posters went flying where they were. It brought back the menacing neighbor appeal to the game that the revealing back story in Hide and Seek took away.
Also, the list of character customization options they had let any player have a unique look. Even for simply an alpha stage of the game, there were more options than I would have thought to be in the final version of the game. The best part of this is that they are sure to expand this even further to let players truly dress up their characters in any way they see fit.
I really like the premise as it is simple enough yet complicated to execute, however there is a serious issue when it comes to balancing. As mentioned before, the default set up yielding a whopping zero wins for the child players no matter how efficiently we played. The closest game I had was getting five keys taken off the door before the last child was grabbed. Once this balancing issue is fixed, I can see Secret Neighbor being a lot of fun, but in its current state it is mainly just frustrating. The best games required a custom lobby to be made and the key count to be lowered to four keys needed while keeping the default timer, however I think ten minutes would also suffice well.