the writings of a mind

Title: Neighbours From Hell
Genre: Puzzle
Big Word: Detached
Strap: Surely such folk would constantly set fire to the garden fence?

Peculiar, that describing the premise of a game could be more complicated than not only playing it, but actually completing it. It goes something like this: First and foremost, itís a puzzle game. The puzzle is to move your character around a 2-D house, viewed from the front with the near wall removed, setting up traps for the neighbour to fall into, without ever getting caught. So itís a case of dodging in and out of doorways, hiding in cupboards, or diving under beds when the neighbour crosses your path in his daily routine, all the while picking up objects and laying pranks.

But now you have to understand that itís also a television programme. What sort of programme is a little ambiguous Ė thereís a studio audience, but itís billed as a fly-on-the-wall set-up. E.g. the neighbour doesnít know heís a part of this programme, despite your characterís constant looking to camera, and the apparent television filming paraphernalia around, er, and the set-like design. So now it starts getting confusing.

And a bit more. You complete a level, or Ďepisodeí, by managing to complete a certain percentage of the pranks in the time limit. These percentages get higher as you get to higher levels. But strangely, thatís not it. You also are marked by how much your audience enjoyed the episode, which is linked to how annoyed your neighbour is, which is indicated by a thermometer measuring angry-ness, which increases when you string traps together, which makes the audiences laugh more, which makes ratings go up. Is our best guess.

So youíve got that all? Good. Now stop caring. Neighbours From Hell takes three hours to complete, and is pathetically easy for the first thirteen of fourteen levels. Most levels are easily completed on the first turn, and certainly never taking more than three tries. By the fourteenth Ďepisodeí, suddenly a half-decent puzzle game looks like it might emerge: the pace picks up, the obstacles get trickier, and it takes a bit of planning to identify a pattern that works. And then abruptly ends.

Itís not satisfying to solve the puzzles - Neighbours either has click-everything-on-everything solutions (click the steroids on the fishtank), or painfully obvious (click the fuse on the fuse box). Thereís never a sense of having second-guessed the game, and hence no sense of victory. Merely a sense that you did what it wanted you to do in the order it wanted you to do it.

Itís tempting to say that there is the germ of a good idea here, that just doesnít manage to get through in time. But in all honesty thatís not true. Itís just a bad idea that doesnít work very well.

Margin Note:
Crossover Crossed Wires

To clear up the confusion, Neighbours From Hell has nothing to do with the ITV programme of the same name. Which is probably not too great a shame. Itís hard to imagine what sort of game could be made out of people screaming at each other about the height of a fence. But you could be sure it would use the Unreal engine.

 Despite being cheap, thereís not enough puzzle for your pounds.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: JoWood
Developer: In house
Price: £17
Minimum System: P 166, 64Mb RAM, 16Mb 3D card, 130Mb HD space
Recommended: PII 266, 128Mb RAM
Multi-player: No
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