Imagine a Resident Evil-style classic survival horror. But instead of running away from zombies and other Umbrella Corp abominations, your biggest enemies are… cute puppets that look like they’re straight from the set of Sesame Street? Oh yes. That’s My Friendly Neighborhood, and its bizarre premise is delightful, actually.
In My Friendly Neighborhood, you take on the role of Gordon, a handyman sent to the MFN Studios to disable the antenna. You see, the now-cancelled puppet show of My Friendly Neighborhood has been airing over the news, so there’s clearly something wrong at the studio. But Gordon has no idea just how wrong things are until he gets there. It seems the puppets have taken over. Oh dear.
Exploring the labyrinthine studios of My Friendly Neighborhood is a surprisingly tense and exciting experience, simply because you never know what you’re going to find around the next corner. The puppets look adorable and harmless, but get too close and they’ll charge at you, unrelenting until you’re on the floor. You’ll be without means to defend yourself early on, but it’s not long until you get a melee weapon and soon after, a gun.
Melee combat is perhaps the only area that lets My Friendly Neighborhood down. It’s hard to know if you’re in range, and so you’ll find yourself swinging your wrench wildly, hoping for the best. More often than not, it’s not good enough, and your flails won’t manage to disturb your opponents’ advances. It’s not enough to make the game too frustrating, though: you’ll only have to rely on it for a very short amount of time until you get your first gun – a Rolodex shooter. A couple of shots, and any puppet on the receiving end will be down on the ground. They do get back up eventually though, unless you tape ’em up with duct tape.
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We wouldn’t say that My Friendly Neighborhood is a kids game. But it is sort-of family friendly in the sense that there’s no blood, and all combat is non-lethal. You’ll simply only knock puppets out, a stash of duct tape preventing them from getting back up off the ground. But don’t let its PG rating put you off: despite its colourful aesthetic and lack of gore, it manages to pack in all of the tension of a much more explicit title in the genre.
The biggest part of My Friendly Neighborhood’s gameplay is puzzle solving. There’s a great mix of them available, from environmental puzzles that require you to hunt down various objects, to more logically-minded tasks that you’ll need your thinking cap on for. We’ve had a great time solving them; if you’re stuck, it’s usually because you’ve missed something. The game’s areas are rather large so it’s easy to miss a room or an object within one. Make use of your minimap, though, handily colour-coded to show you any rooms you’ve not thoroughly explored, and you’ll soon find your way.
It helps that My Friendly Neighborhood’s environments are such a joy to explore. It nails the backstage studio experience, and you’ll have a blast as you wander between dressing rooms, abandoned sets and behind-the-scenes areas. The only thing spoiling your fun as you nose around and take in all your surroundings as knowing that there’s usually a puppet nearby, wanting to take you down. They may take you by surprise occasionally, but thankfully you’ll usually hear their inane, hyper-happy chatter long before you see them.
We’re also impressed with its breadth of difficulty levels, with a new, easier difficulty level being added shortly after launch by the developer at the request of players. Opt for the easiest difficulty and you’ll be granted free saves (normally, you’d need a token), more frequent checkpoints and enemies that go down with less bullets. The same level of challenge remains in terms of puzzles, but we greatly appreciate the developer making it slightly more accessible for those who need it.
If Resident Evil and Sesame Street had a baby, My Friendly Neighborhood would be it. It wears its classic Resi influences on its arm – such as its door-opening animations and its use of safe rooms – but it’s never derivative, instead managing to be something entirely original, not to mention a great deal of fun. One of the best indie horror games of recent years, My Friendly Neighborhood is well worth paying a visit to.