If you asked me for a game all about schadenfreude, I’d have to point you to Neighbours back From Hell. Yes, “back,” as in, they have come again from the fiery depths of Satan’s domain to wreak chaos and confusion. The beloved original released in 2003 with its sequel following in its footsteps a year later, Neighbours back From Hell brings both to PC, Switch, PS4, and XBox One with updated HD graphics and doubled framerates for a smoother experience. The question is, was this remaster worth the trip, or should they have come back at all?
The premise of Neighbours back From Hell is simple: players take on the role of Woody, a standard dude just trying to chill in his front yard. That is, he was trying to, until his godawful neighbour Mr. Rottweiler & co. committed pretty much every neighbourly sin within 30 seconds, including emptying trash bags on Woody’s lawn, letting the dog poo on Woody’s grass, and generally making a ruckus. Fed up with his lot in life (and lot in the neighbourhood), Woody calls a TV crew to tail him as he sneaks into Rottweiler’s house and pull pranks in retaliation. Woody’s revenge is an accident waiting to happen… or two… or 12… and the TV audience is here for it.
As Neighbours back From Hell is a point and click, controls are exceedingly simple: you point, you click. Woody will enter the unlocked house from the front door, where he’ll be able to search through appliances or cupboards to find items of interest, such as super glue or eggs. These items can then be used to make mischief, such as microwaving the egg or putting super glue in Rottweiler’s aftershave. Be careful, however — if Rottweiler catches you causing trouble, he’ll beat the crap out of you. It’s all fun and games until you’re literally mashed to a bloody pulp!
Although Neighbours back From Hell requires stealth, it’s more of a puzzle game with stealth elements. Rottweiler will walk around his house in a predictable pattern that loops in perpetuity, allowing you to memorize his eternal loop. From a puzzle perspective this makes sense, but it sure does feel in conflict with normal human behavior. Case in point, one of the earlier levels has Rottweiler blowing candles out on his birthday cake. Sit in the wardrobe long enough and he’ll blow a candle out every 30 seconds or so, which feels less like a day of celebration and more like eternal damnation. Are we from Hell, or are we still there?
Of course, Neighbours back From Hell isn’t meant to be taken seriously — it’s obviously campy as can be and children-focused with its slapstick humor. But I won’t lie, it’s got a genuinely fun problem-solving element to it. If you play your pranks right, you can line pranks up back to back for mischief multipliers, getting higher scores than if you just did one at a time. Some pranks have a single window of opportunity, meaning if you miss your chance and play a prank out of order, you won’t be able to get a perfect score. In Neighbours back From Hell, it’s not merely about playing pranks, it’s about efficiently setting up traps that cause the most amount of damage, which is delightfully evil.
In terms of a remaster, Neighbours back From Hell unfortunately falls a little flat. When Rottweiler falls for a prank, Neighbour TV immediately zooms over to him no matter what you’re in the middle of, meaning you lose valuable time to set up other pranks. It’s also weird that I can’t click on an object to interact with it from another room — I might be in the hallway and want to clog the toilet with toilet paper, but I have to actually go into the bathroom to do that first instead of just saving myself a few clicks from where I stand. And if we’re talking about quality of life updates, a fast-forward button would have been tremendously appreciated, as I had times where I’d pull out my phone and do something else while I waited for Rottweiler to eventually mosey over to my meticulously crafted mischief. Coupled with the loss of a few levels from the original two games and some reorganization to fit a narrative instead of favoring those coming for nostalgia, Neighbours back From Hell objectively looks better than the original, but it still feels its age.
Neighbours back From Hell took me on a trip to early 2000s gaming, and honestly, I was absolutely here for it. It may not be the smoothest experience and I’m certainly missing some quality of life updates that would have made quite a difference, but that didn’t stop Neighbours back From Hell from being the low-brow, low-effort kind of fun that doesn’t take itself seriously. If you want to casually make your neighbour suffer in the comforts of his own home, be sure to pick up Neighbours back From Hell — PC preferred for perfect pranks!
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC (reviewed); Publisher: HandyGames; Developer: THQ Nordic, Farbworks; Players: 1; Released: October 8, 2020; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Neighbours back From Hell given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.