GAME REVIEW | "My Friendly Neighborhood" Teaches the ABC’s of Death
Laugh all you want at the concept of My Friendly Neighborhood. I sure did when I first got wind of it via a DreadXP email. A first-person shooter involving puppets is a truly funny idea. (In fact, it made me think of the Swedish Chef's Doom parody in Muppets Inside.) However, brothers John & Evan Szymanski have not only found a way to make it a better concept than one could imagine; they somehow made it terrifying!
The game begins with your character, Gordon the Repairman. You are tasked to take down a broadcast signal coming from an abandoned TV station. For some reason, the children’s TV series "The Friendly Neighborhood" is making new episodes, despite it being cancelled for years. But the content isn’t exactly kid-friendly; in fact, what’s coming out of these puppets’ mouths is downright disturbing!
Naturally, Gordon needs to put a stop to these psychotic felt creatures. At first, you’re only armed with a wrench, which can be used for some decent melee attacks. But as the game goes on, you’ll find a wrench just won’t cut it. That’s where guns with stick-it notes and a shotgun known as the Novelist will come into play, with a couple shots from them able to take down just about any sort of friendly neighbor. Alas, unless you’ve got yourself a Red Green amount of duct tape, those dang puppets will get right back up again as soon as you reenter the room.
That aspect is what keeps My Friendly Neighborhood on your toes. And while you can mostly see and hear the threats before you have to face off against them, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re incredibly scary to deal with. The likes of Norman, Junebug, Lilianna, and Lenard don’t look frightening, but whilst in attack mode, that’s where you’ll feel your heart rate rise! Even worse is the fact that they may have a power or two to make things tougher. (I legit jolted when I saw Norman duplicate into a dozen clones after I shot him one time!)
Thankfully, not every puppet wants to hug you to death. Ricky (voiced by YouTuber Arlo, an incredibly perfect casting) tries his best to help Gordon on his mission. He’ll warn you of dangers, and will also do his best to make sure that no human or puppet is harmed in the studio. There are other puppets that are seemingly misunderstood, with the terrifying-looking tall bird Pearl only being frustrated by a lack of a certain sense. (Once you find the solution to this conundrum, you’ll be greeted with a truly heartfelt scene.)
Of course, you’re not just going around shooting and taping puppets down in the game. As this is a nod to PBS television, you’ll have to use your brain here and there. The puzzles showcased here have enough of a challenge, ranging from the Punch Card Clock and rearranging masks to using Morse code. You won’t learn anything from these skills, but they’re a necessity when it comes to getting to the next area of the game.
Where My Friendly Neighborhood gets it right most is in its tone. The mere fact that you’re trying to defeat sentient puppets should be funny on paper, and there are parts of the game that are laugh-out-loud hilarious. But with its mixture of lighting techniques, the crazy voices coming out of the puppets, and the running speed of the enemies, the Szymanskis have manages to craft something truly frightening. One moment, you’re chuckling at something Norman says; the next moment, you’re screaming for dear life as you’re bombarded by these felt monstrosities!
Kudos to the developers for designing puppets that feel like they should be in either children’s television or Meet the Feebles. While Norman and Lilianna have a kind look to them, Ray and Goblette will no doubt freak you out when they go in for the attack. While there are only two boss battles in the game, both The All-Seeing and the final boss have some downright creepy aesthetics that make them look as threatening as they truly are. (The fact that the last boss is fought almost entirely in the dark makes this final task all the more terrifying!)
Control-wise, My Friendly Neighborhood is very easy to master. Using an Xbox One controller to play, switching weapons, pulling out maps, and using items are a cinch. While you can use a sight assistance, it’s not necessary due to how lock-on the aiming is in the game. Even if one’s not too familiar with first-person shooters, players will figure out how to play very quickly.
You’ll find yourself completing the game in roughly 4-6 hours. While there currently isn’t a lot of replay value, it’s worth revisiting just to find all of the hidden jokes and references scattered throughout the broadcasting building. (Fingers crossed that we get a DLC crossover with Amanda the Adventurer in some form. Wooly needs his redemption arc, dammit!)
- Knows how to be both funny and terrifying
- Great control mechanics
- Fantastic voice acting
- Can run on the shorter side
- Will not tell you how to get to Sesame Street
I never expected a game with puppets to get my heart racing like this. And yet, My Friendly Neighborhood managed to both frighten and tickle me with horrifying delight. You may chuckle at the thought of some grown-ass man shrieking at a puppet game, but I’ll be laughing the longest when you submit yourself to the googly-eyed terror that My Friendly Neighborhood churns out!
Promotional consideration provided by ÜberStrategist, Inc. Reviewed on the PC via Steam.