A Sesame Street-esque horror game? How could that possibly be scary? Like this, apparently. My Friendly Neighborhood is a survival horror game in the mould of classic Resident Evil that trades in mansions and laboratories for the studio of an educational puppet show for tots. Despite this, I found the game has plenty of scares, as it’s tense and has a lot of atmosphere packed into it. Also, it helps that the puppets are creepy. The game doesn’t last particularly long and it does have some aspects I’m less than fond of, but this is a winning survival horror game that puts its own spin on the genre.
My Friendly Neighborhood kicks off with Gordon, a repairman sent to shut down the broadcast for the titular TV show. But when he gets there, he finds that he can’t access the area he needs to reach to do this. Naturally, this means that he’ll need to carefully explore the place to find something that lets him reach his goal. Alongside that, there’s a backdrop about a war that Gordon fought in, as well as some conversations with Ricky, a living sock puppet that shows up from time to time. The game is well-written and the voice acting is high quality to boot!
How are the puppets scary? Unlike most other mascot-themed horror games, My Friendly Neighborhood foregoes the obvious route of giving the puppets sharp teeth and other typical horror tropes. Instead, they’re mostly just normal puppets. However, the way they mutter to themselves while standing in place and shimmying like inflatable tubes outside of car dealerships is just creepy, as is the way they run your way once they spot you. But most of them don’t attack you so much as knock you over with a hug. It’s very impressive that the devs succeeded in making the game as unnerving as it is with all of this in mind.
Count on some horror
Since this is a survival horror game, you’ll be looking around for key items and supplies. There are puzzles to solve and enemies to watch out for. One truly threatening choice My Friendly Neighborhood makes is that you can’t actually kill the puppets. You find weapons, sure, including a pistol, shotgun, and grenades, but they only incapacitate the felt freaks while you’re still in the area. If you leave and then return, they’ll be back on their feet. The only way to combat this is to tape them up. They’re like crimson heads from the Resident Evil remake, only it’s every enemy. Yeesh!
The weapons you come across are very kid-friendly. The pistol, for instance, shoots metal letters that ricochet around. It’s all very clever. You’ll also find tokens scattered around that you can use to heal in save rooms which contain a chest for storing items. The game’s inventory is similar to the one in Resident Evil 4. My Friendly Neighborhood lasts about four or five hours and can be fairly tense and challenging despite its bloodless, violence-free nature. You can even choose to make peace with certain roaming enemies, such as a big bird (no relation) that’s missing its glasses.
A recent update added a horde mode that extends replay value, plus you can find tapes that let you use cheats on subsequent playthroughs. I’m very fond of the game, although I don’t like how so much of the difficulty hinges on the enemies having insta grabs. Later in the game, a new enemy spawns all over the place and this one irked me a fair deal, as it’s harder to avoid and takes more damage than the garden variety puppet. That aside, I can’t deny how fun and scary the game is.
My Friendly Neighborhood is another game that shows that there’s still plenty of life remaining in the classic survival-horror throwback subgenre. Even if you doubt that the game can have effective chills, it’s worth giving it a chance, as it offers a well-realised game world, put together by strong level design and a truly engrossing presentation. These puppets don’t have razor-sharp teeth, but that doesn’t mean they won’t bite back.
My Friendly Neighborhood: My Friendly Neighborhood is a winning survival horror game, despite its short length and over-simplicity of its enemy attack patterns. It manages to be scarier than more traditional horror games without spilling a drop of blood too, which is quite the achievement. – Andrew Farrell
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