Like the deranged children’s programming provided by the Five Nights at Freddy’s and Chucky series before it, My Friendly Neighborhood takes everyone’s favorite childhood memories and converts them into a gruesome scenario where you’re fighting for your life. The result, at least based on my journey so far, is a highly entertaining pseudo-horror game filled with face-slapping goofball murderers and highly disturbing musical numbers. While it certainly leans much more heavily into silliness than it does horror, I’m quite enjoying the abundantly disturbing adventure so far.
My Friendly Neighborhood answers the hilarious and completely unnecessary question: “What if Resident Evil took place on Sesame Street?”, and that Raccoon City inspiration is clear in everything from the shambling muppets to the grid-based briefcases used for inventory management. I even had a limited number of game saves and was forced to spend precious game tokens scavenged from levels to save my progress, or risk losing it all when a dopey-faced fuzz buddy hugged me to death.
Playing as a handyman named Gordon who was called to the scene of an abandoned broadcasting station that was once home to an iconic children’s show, I suddenly found myself trapped by a bunch of insane, sentient puppets that seemed very eager to murder me on sight. That extremely strong premise paved the way for plenty of cartoonish shenanigans and references to the Sesame Street-watching days of my youth, and that made for an immensely entertaining handful of hours.
But where Resident Evil is known for its dark tone and terrifying moments, My Friendly Neighborhood mostly makes light of the genre with brightly colored environments and some extremely silly antagonists. In one section, I had to avoid the attention of a massive Big Bird-like abomination that wanted to devour me as I collected letter tiles to pass a spelling test, while in another I found myself in sewers that served as the domain to an extremely Grouch-y tenant who hoped to bonk me over the head with a wrench.
“Even though the sections I played never hit the horror spot I was hoping they would, the high number of memorable laughs along the way largely made up for that absence.”
Although I got a kick out of most of what I saw, one nagging annoyance is that, while sneaking around to complete puzzles, I had to relisten to a lot of the same voice lines from the puppets as they flailed around relentlessly. It seems they only say new things when you move on to new areas and levels, so when it took me a bit to get through one section or if I died once or twice, I had to listen to a lot of the same nonsense multiple times. That did make some of the novelty run thin in the limited time I spent with it.
Just about everything about this so-called horror game doesn’t take itself seriously. My weapons used rolodexes of the alphabet to shoot giant metal letters at my puppet pursuers, defeated enemies would be sent ragdolling across the room with a yelp, and the entire cast of characters repeatedly monologued demented children’s programming at me that including things like teaching me a method of learning how to count that involved eating my own hands. As someone who enjoys a good laugh, all of that largely worked for me. Even though the sections I played never hit the horror spot I was hoping they would, the high number of memorable laughs along the way largely made up for that absence.
But the lack of real moments of horror is certainly noticeable, making for a very different experience from peers like Five Nights at Freddy’s, where there are plenty of shriek-inducing scenes despite the kid-friendly subject matter. Even when I was murdered by maniac muppets, there weren’t any jump scares or genuinely terrifying moments to be found (at least in the early sections I played), and that was admittedly a bit of a bummer.
Even so, as someone who quite enjoys goofy, irreverent games, I’m excited to see more of My Friendly Neighborhood and its unlovable cast of characters when it makes its debut later this month.