Hello Neighbor Deaf Accessibility
- Visual Representation of Sound - 0
- Visual Cues - 0
I was so excited about Hello Neighbor. So excited. It was one of the very few games I pre-ordered and was disappointed when the release date got bumped back by six months, but hopeful that it would make for an even better game. It didn’t. The premise of the game sounded unique and brilliant. You try to break into your neighbor’s house to find out what he’s hiding and each time he catches you, he learns and responds accordingly, placing traps on previously used routes and scouting that area more diligently. The goal is to solve puzzles in order to gain entry to your neighbor’s basement.
The issues begin the second you start the game. There’s a cutscene of a kid kicking a ball down the street. Then you’re given control of the character, given absolutely zero direction, and left to figure out WTF you’re supposed to do.
The above scene is what you’re presented with upon gaining control, and you’re given no motivation to do much but stand there because the opening scene doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So I stood there waiting for something else to happen for a minute before it occurred to me that I should be moving around, exploring the world (and it’s a beautifully designed world, that’s the one thing the game has going for it). I was inclined to explore the neighborhood a bit, only to find there was absolutely nothing to do in any part of the neighborhood (even though you’re free to wander as much as you want). I finally made my way to the bad guy’s house for another cutscene and I was promptly caught by bad guy and restarted in the yard across from the dude’s house.
Why was I immediately caught? Because there’s a sound indicator that you’ve been spotted that gives you plenty of time to run away. There’s a visual indicator as well, in that the screen gets kind of blurry and jumbly, but by the time you see the visual indicator, you’re as good as caught. Hearing players have the advantage of hearing the guy talk in his house, his voice louder or softer depending on how nearby he is, and they get a footstep sound warning when he’s moving about the house. Deaf and hoh players have all of 2 seconds to run or hide, which is basically impossible. Which makes the game basically unplayable.
This is how subtle the visual indicator for being spotted is. The screen changed and then the guy walked into the room. I had zero chance to get away.
The controls leave a lot to be desired as well. See the bright white dot on the light switch in the above image? That indicates that you can interact with an item. Sometimes. Sometimes you can’t interact with an item, even if the dot goes from dull to bright. In the control options (on console) the mapping tells you that RB is what you use to interact with things. I spent the first half hour of play time thinking I couldn’t interact with anything because I was tapping RB, not holding it. Nowhere does it say you need to hold it for a few seconds for the magic to happen (and even then the magic only happens half the time).
I finally found some things to interact with; these boxes in the above screenshot. Don’t ask me what I can do with them, I didn’t last long enough to do anything but carry them around because I was busy being caught every 30 seconds, but I could pick them up and carry them for a few minutes. The only thing I was successful in doing was throwing stuff at the bad guy, which slowed him down for a second (not long enough for me to get away).
There are SO many ways they could have made this game accessible for deaf players, and all of the things they could have done to accomplish that are incredibly simple, but they didn’t bother. I have to say, this is the first game I’ve ever downloaded, played for less than an hour, and promptly deleted it off my console because I see zero point in ever coming back to it. It’s that unplayable for deaf/