My Friendly Neighborhood: Review
This game was reviewed on PC.
Reviewed by: Nikola Hristov
In a year full of surprisingly good indie games, we are still not done yet and adding more to the list. Someone out there asked what would happen if you combine Resident Evil's survival horror gameplay and the goofiness of Sesame Street - and this game is exactly that. It was made by only two developers, John and Evan Szymanski, and despite not being perfect, it achieves what it sets out to do very well.
My Friendly Neighborhood is an interesting game, because despite the survival horror genre, it never really feels terrifying like other titles. Instead it puts you up against Sesame Street dolls and asks you to shoot them in the head. The story puts you in the shoes of Gordon, a repairman sent to climb a tower which is broadcasting a show called, you guessed it, My Friendly Neighborhood, even though it ended years ago. As with every creepy game, this disturbance doesn't seem much at first, but you soon realize the "fun" you're in for in this dollhouse. On your way to climb the tower, you fend off against the puppets and solve puzzles. While not a necessarily hard game, it does have some areas which might take you a few tries to complete. However, for the most part, this is a simple 5-6 hour game.
The gameplay takes all features of Resident Evil and transforms them to fit the game's thematic. You can expect the same types of puzzles, inventory management, different weapons to choose from and enemies to fight against. One aspect it could've done better in my opinion are the areas however - they just didn't seem Puppeteery enough. On some levels you're literally walking through sewers and corridors, which is just generic horror and takes away from the more riveting parts of the game - the playgrounds, theaters, dollhouses, etc. Because the game is relatively short, you're left wanting a bit more from the experience - especially in the horror department. Though it's nice being able to shoot puppets in the head with a revolver, they never really feel terrifying enough to give you the creeps, unless you have a phobia of Kermit the Frog. Just like RE you also have safe rooms where you manually save your progress and enemies can't get to you. I would've also enjoyed a bit more enemy types - but then i remembered that only two people worked on this game, which is impressive on its own.
Though the narrative isn't exactly attention-capturing, the voice acting was surprisingly good. Gordon and the friendly NPCs get along well, and talk just enough for you not to feel alone on your adventure. However, I do feel like the enemies should've shut up more. I get that they're Sesame Street puppets and they're supposed to talk, but they literally never stopped! It also didn't help that they only had a few voice lines recorded and they kept repeating themselves. This contributed to both loosening the player's immersion in the game and taking away from the horror aspects.
However, I give credit where credit is due - and for a game by two devs it really does look polished. The areas give off a very nice mix of goofy and scary, the puppets are animated well and the guns all shoot nicely. Gordon's hands are a bit weird though and it's noticeable when you're pulling a lever. The music and sound effects were also excellent - really gave you that 80s feel they were going for. It also helps that the game didn't crash once - which is crucial to titles with manual save files.
Overall, My Friendly Neighborhood is not a must-play by any means, but if you're a fan of indie horror and survival games, it's a strong recommendation. With decent enough gameplay and great atmosphere, it's sure to keep you hooked for its rather short duration of the story. However, I was left wanting a bit more with the narrative and parts of the levels that didn't achieve the Sesame Street feel I wanted. That being said, should the developers aim for a sequel that improves on everything I mentioned, there's no doubt in my mind that this could garner all the attention it deserves.
Reviewed by: Nikola Hristov