Secret Neighbor Review: Spot The Traitor!

What is it that your neighbour keeps in their basement? Find out with other kids in Secret Neighbor for the PS4 - an online multiplayer full of deceit.

Secret Neighbor reminds me of The Burbs. Ask your folks about that if you aren’t old enough or never heard of it. In short, a family moves into the suburbs, and the local busybodies go to investigate. Does the family harbour the secrets implied, or are they law-abiding citizens?

Here you have a spin-off of Hello Neighbor, from tinyBuild, only it’s online play with other kids – I mean gamers. Confession: I’ve only played a demo of the game, and that wasn’t long, so not too familiar with the premise other than the dubious neighbour (spelt correctly) with secrets to hide.

In Secret Neighbor, your job is to infiltrate their home with many other kids, find their secrets and get out unscathed. Truth be told, if I had read about the game properly before agreeing to review it, perhaps this Secret Neighbor review would never have materialised. 

Secret Neighbor PS4 Review

Not being one for online multiplayers, playing with others was more uncomfortable than snooping around this blokes gaff. To be honest, I initially hated it. 

Secret Neighbor PS4 Review - Klepto
Klepto. Source: tinyBuild

You pick a character class of kid, then together, you have to look around the house for various keycards to unlock new areas and find some evidence in the basement.

Meanwhile, the neighbour is hunting you down, ready to imprison you in a make-do cage

Other players can rescue you, but in the number of games I played, not one player helped the other. In my defence, the first bundle of games was trying to work out how to play it as there were zero instructions, no tutorial or a bot-like environment to cut your teeth. It was straight into the ‘funhouse’ with a bunch of shouty kids.

That last statement isn’t the gaming avatars but those in the matches I played. It resulted in me switching off voice chat. There wasn’t anything offensive said, but if I wanted to hear shouty playground garbage, there’s a fair amount of YouTubers that could compensate. No, it was the silent treatment here, though in-game players will shout to one another in some pseudo-language of sorts.

The Extra Goonie

It wasn’t going well, and match after match resulted in me throwing random objects through the windows or locating chocolate to earn the day’s reward. I wanted to be the neighbour, and while there are three variations to choose from, it appears that he is selected at random, and to this day, I haven’t had a go 🙁

Secret Neighbor PS4 Review - Jack
You don’t know, Jack. Source: tinyBuild

As a model professional, I gritted my teeth and pushed through until a revelation happened: the neighbour quit a minute into the game. A couple of others soon left, but the game continued. Besides being awarded some coins for surviving, this was the best time to learn how to play.

By the time the game ended and the remaining kids were deemed the winners, I was a veteran

So, like an abandoned Goonie, I jumped upon furniture, opening every draw as if playing Shenmue 3 – the Godfather of opening draws randomly, and started locating keycards that granted access elsewhere. Marvellous! Next, I put a metal pot on my head to create a new fad. Not much was happening, but by Jove, I got it.

Subsequent games were fun as it was clear what to do, but this time always looking over our shoulders for the neighbour – especially when he morphed into a kid then grabs you.

This Is IT

The neighbour in Secret Neighbor is by far the highlight of the game. Resembling a pseudo-IT – even with a clown costume, his presence is superb. Seeing a fellow kid running towards you in a corridor, you look back to see where they were going, only to see them shift into the neighbour is unbelievably menacing and could not be faulted.

Secret Neighbor PS4 Review - Shadow man
Shadow, man. Source: tinyBuild

As for level design, it’s good. It could do with some more interactivity. Saying that, unless the person playing as the neighbour has quit, there isn’t much opportunity to inspect the wallpaper or whether the bannister needs a new clean. You have to be swift and have your wits about you.

If we were to compare Secret Neighbor to anything else, bearing in mind I’m not an online player; it has to be like Dead By Daylight. The ominous tones and fear elements are just as good – even without the gore, though the camaraderie in the latter was much better from my experience as other players would help you towards a common goal.

My biggest criticism has to be the customisation element. It’s merely cosmetic, but to truly customise your favourite characters would require a lot of runs. You either get coins or tokens, and they’re incredibly elusive. After my first win(?) I received 20 coins, but the cheapest item on sale was about 100 coins for a backpack. This isn’t about real-world money or paywalls, but there wasn’t enough incentive to play to unlock these items. And to be honest, there weren’t that many variations of apparel.

This Secret Neighbor review comes with a slight bias due to not being a fan of online-only games. That could defeat the object, but I enjoyed Dead By Daylight, even if I no longer play it. No, I’m holding out for Hello Neighbor 2 – a solo game is more up my street. Unless you get a game with like-minded individuals a.k.a. your mates, Secret Neighbor did feel like a solo experience. One of the reasons an online-only game makes it difficult to give a thorough review as it’s dependent on who you play with.

Pros

  • The neighbor is perfect.
  • Lots of customisations to unlock if interested.
  • Nice presentation.
  • Eerie atmosphere and often tense.

Cons

  • The experience is more determined by who you play with.
  • Unlocking customisations is a grind.
  • Being the neighbour is a random event.
  • Nice level design, but quite repetitive.