Neighbours from Hell Xbox
by JoWooD Productions
Developed by JoWooD Vienna
Release Date: Out Now
A couple of years ago we reviewed a PC game that was quite unlike anything we had played before. Neighbours from Hell is essentially about a guy named Woody who has had enough of his irritating neighbour. After taking long term abuse from his neighbour, Mr. Rottweiler, Woody decides it's time for revenge. Throughout the game you'll be playing tricks on Woody's neighbour (and some members of his family and friends). It's a crazy game to be sure but its originality made it a success on the PC and definitely has the potential to be a popular title with console gamers.
Before I go any further though it's probably safe to assume that some of you won't have played the PC version of Neighbours from Hell and will probably be completely unaware of how the game plays. You'll begin the level in a certain location (Rottweiler's house for instance) and the idea is to make Woody play a set number of tricks on them without being caught. In the earlier levels you'll just have to play tricks on Rottweiler. You'll notice that Rottweiler will move from room to room performing set actions. For instance he'll begin by sitting watching TV, then he'll get up and move to the kitchen (which is upstairs), take his binoculars and look out of his window. Later he might come downstairs and visit the bathroom. Recognising Rottweiler's routine is crucial to your chances of success. Once you've figured out your enemy's routine you can move from room to room, in such a way as to constantly avoid Rottweiler, and set up the tricks (such as putting super glue on the binoculars or blocking the toilet with toilet paper). Once you're successful doing this you'll want to replay a level and string trick combinations together. Playing a trick on Rottweiler that causes him to go to the toilet that you've previously blocked with toilet paper will not only result in you completing the levels more quickly but will also make Rottweiler angrier than ever. Of course if Woody is caught he'll get beat up so at all times you'll have to keep him safe.
If you've played the game on the PC you'll notice a few things are different in the console version. Before I say anything else though let's make it clear that this isn't just a console version of the first PC Neighbours from hell. I recognised levels from both the original PC game and its sequel and the tricks are slightly different too. After creating a profile you'll have the choice of Standard Mode, Classic Mode, Freeplay Mode and Impossible mode. The game has 24 levels in all, broken up into blocks of six missions which must be completed before you move on to the next six. These missions are accessible in each of the modes. Standard Mode gives you three lives so you're allowed to mess things up a little and still complete your tricks. Classic Mode is similar to the PC game in that you only have one life so if you're caught by Rottweiler, it's game over. You'll also notice that you have to raise Rottweiler's anger to a certain level too. Freeplay Mode allows you to simply practice the missions you've already completed whilst Impossible Mode sees you having to play through each mission consecutively with only one life.
Being a PC game initially means that some thought has had to go in to creating a control scheme that feels comfortable. Whilst this isn't easy I feel the developers have actually done a good job. Woody is moved around with the left analogue stick whereas the right analogue stick handles the camera. The triggers cycle through your inventory items. The X button looks at items whilst the Y button looks at items in your inventory. Finally the A button is what you'll use to perform an action and it's the button you'll be pressing most in the game. Those who like to create their own control scheme (or customise the default one) might be disappointed that there's no option to do so.
Those of you that have played the PC version of Neighbours from Hell will notice a limitation with the console versions of the game. In the PC version you could always tell, at a glance, what your neighbour was going to do as the interface provided a picture of your neighbour with a thought cloud over his head. This thought cloud gave you a great idea where your neighbour was going to be heading for next. In the console version this vital piece of information isn't there. Instead you're meant to move the camera around continuously to keep an eye on him. This works to a certain degree but it's nowhere near as convenient as it was on the PC version and for this reason alone I would recommend the PC version over the console versions.
The developers have done a great job of making Neighbours from Hell look equally as charming on the Xbox as it does on the PC. The game is still a 2D, side scrolling experience which keeps the camera maintenance to a minimum. The camera is controlled by the right analogue stick and on releasing the stick the camera will snap back to Woody. When a trick is being played out by the victim the camera will immediately jump to its location so you can witness it. This is good as it allows you to follow what's happening but if you're trying to string a combination of tricks together it can be a little jarring to suddenly have the camera move away. Thankfully though you can press the B button to take the camera back to Woody at any time and you can also disable this trick camera in the options menu. The game still retains its TV show style and you'll even notice an impressive cutscene when you first start playing the game modes.
Neighbours from Hell was deaf gamer friendly on the PC and it's certainly that way on the Xbox too. There's not really any speech as such in the game. Woody chuckles and Rottweiler grunts but there's little else. All information within the game is shown in text. Objectives are given in text as are tutorial tips and other messages. When you look at an item there's text descriptions to tell what they could be used for etc. You will be unaware of the audience's laughter but this doesn't spoil anything as such.
I was a big fan of the PC Neighbour's from Hell games and the Xbox version certainly is an enjoyable game. However Neighbour's from Hell on the Xbox isn't quite the game it was on the PC. The hindrance being the lack of information as to what your victim is thinking of doing next. The interface in the PC version always allowed you to see what you Mr. Rottweiler was going to do next. Without this information present you'll have to move the camera to keep an eye on him and it does spoil the flow of the game somewhat. In the Standard Mode this isn't too bad as you've 3 lives to play around with but in Classic and Impossible modes it makes for a frustrating experience until you're sure of your neighbour's movement patterns. Still it's a unique experience and for owners of a Xbox or GameCube it's well worth it for £19.99.
Overall Game Rating: 7.2/10
It's great to see such an original PC title make it's way to the consoles. For the most part the humorous nature of the game remains intact too. However it can prove a pain having to move the camera to watch where your enemies are and the interface is not as informative as it was on the PC version of the game.
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