I feel like the mascot horror genre has been thoroughly saturated by games like Poppy Playtime and Hello Neighbor, which started out as novel concepts but overstayed their welcome.
It seems that every horror game nowadays needs to have some convoluted lore that usually involves the restless spirits of kids, because if you are going to copy Five Nights at Freddy‘s as a concept then you might as well copy the plot too.
It’s pretty common for innately goofy premises to be taken way too seriously and ruin themselves with nonsense. Did you know there’s a ball pit in a Five Nights at Freddy‘s book that can time travel 30 years into the past? Now you do, and your life is just a little worse because of it.
Thankfully, there may still be hope for the mascot horror genre, as My Friendly Neighborhood seems to do things differently. Published by the fantastic DreadXP, which has been somehow knocking it out of the park consistently for a good 3 years now.
We don’t have a lot of context in the demo, but the game takes place in a massive facility that serves as a studio for a kid’s TV show, however, despite it having cameras and sets, the place is a massive facility with lots of locations unrelated to the TV show.
Gordon, a repairman, is sent to the studio after it started broadcasting new episodes by itself, years after shutting down. We’ve seen a similar premise before with Hello Puppets, but My Friendly Neighborhood kicks the premise into overdrive, fully basking in the ridiculousness of a tired repairman having to fight a bunch of puppets.
My Friendly Neighborhood really commits to the survival horror premise, by having limited ammo and immortal enemies, whose only way to incapacitate is by duct taping them once they get knocked out.
Another staple of the survival horror genre are the puzzles, which the player has to complete to progress. The puzzles in My Friendly Neighborhood don’t quite reach the sadistic level they did in something like Silent Hill, but they are around the difficulty level of Resident Evil.
The puppets are all excessively obnoxious and keep spouting random facts, like what to feed the animals when you go to the zoo. The way that they immediately ragdoll away once you incapacitate them also adds a lot to the game, it shows that this is not meant to be taken seriously at all.
The genius of having inanimate objects as enemies is that they can still torment you while incapacitated, since they are basically immortal, and it also allows the developer to position them around the environment to keep the player on edge.
Having an enemy around is one thing, but the knowledge that part of the scenario could spontaneously come to life and attack you is something else. One of the best sections in the demo is walking into a tight room and seeing the light flicker, to reveal two shelves full of inanimate puppets, who look just like the regular enemies.
As opposed to modern mascot horror games that take themselves way too seriously, My Friendly Neighborhood knows exactly what is is, and fully relishes in the fact that having puppets stalking the player is a very goofy premise.
The demo we got clocks in at about 45 minutes of content, and gives us a really good glimpse into what we can expect when it comes to surviving the puppets and exploring parts of the facility. My Friendly Neighborhood looks like a solid comedic approach to the genre.
My Friendly Neighborhood is set to release at some point in 2023 for Microsoft Windows (through Steam).