You play as Gordon, a handyman tasked with shutting off the broadcast tower that’s overriding normal network programming with old episodes of a canceled children’s puppet show. When you arrive at the abandoned studio, the puppets are running wild and try to stop you as you move through the labyrinth of sound stages, offices, and sets to get to the tower. Access to keys, ammo, and other items often lie behind puzzles with bizarre but contextual themes.
The setup is incredible and the game’s stuffed with potential. Most of the felt foes look like actual puppets rather than the familiar trope of juxtaposing cute mascots with gore and scary imagery like metal teeth. The false life of television sets as you move past where the cameras sit and see the raw structures and material can be unsettling. Being harassed by unkillable enemies is ripe with potential. Unfortunately, none of the plot points, character designs, or even the gameplay itself live up to the base concept.
The levels are a great example of this. The game barely explores unique areas of a children’s TV show set, with generic tunnels, sewers, and offices taking up more real estate than the unique ideas like cardboard-looking sets.
The weapons are another example of a neat concept that fails to deliver. Your main gun is a revolver-like thing that shoots note cards with letters on them that somehow turn into physical letters when fired. It’s a creative idea, but it lacks contextual explanation why this gun exists or why Gordon just picks it up and uses it.
The puppet enemies constantly spout dialog and wave their arms around, always letting you know if they’re in a room when you enter. They won’t stop flailing until they spot you and then chase you until you leave the room or subdue them. While much of the puppets’ dialog is enjoyable and amusing—like teaching you how to count by seeing how many hands you can swallow—there isn’t enough dialog for the constantly chatting puppets, so I heard the same dialog countless times over my playthrough.
The map had a number of issues and questionable design choices. It didn’t always show where I was or load the correct floor when opening it. Sometimes unlocked doors showed up as locked. Certain doors didn’t show up on the map. And the one that was the most annoying to me: it doesn’t mark save rooms, leading to a lot of wandering when I just wanted to save so I could quit.
My Friendly Neighborhood lacked the fun, terror, and intrigue to make it a great game. However, the wealth of neat ideas it barely touched upon honestly makes me interested in what these developers could improve with a sequel now that they have the basics. While I didn’t enjoy most of my seven-hour playtime in the neighborhood, I’d come back if those puppets took to the airwaves again.
My Friendly Neighborhood is available July 18 for PC through Steam and Itch.io and is scheduled for release on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S in the future.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for My Friendly Neighborhood.