The "Neighbors From Hell" reality TV series is back on the air, and it's up to the show's mischievous star to make sure it earns the ratings it'll need to stay there. Neighbors From Hell: On Vacation puts players in the role of an impish rogue named Woody who entertains the audience by playing practical jokes on his grumpy and easily disturbed neighbor. Five new characters are introduced to help Woody with his dirty deeds, while new animals and plants are positioned nearby for strategic manipulation. Also present is the neighbor's mom, which adds the extra challenge of irritating a paltry parent.
Game play consists of a series of 14 episodes in which the player must figure out the best way to use available household objects to set up comically disastrous traps for his neighbor. On Vacation offers six main areas for such mischief, including locations in China, India, Mexico, and on a cruise ship. Under the premise that each escapade is being filmed for a reality television series, the more laughs from the audience the better.
As a bonus, a full 14 episode version of the original Neighbors From Hell game (which is set in an apartment building) is included.
Comprised of the original Neighbors from Hell and its sequel, Neighbors from Hell 2; this compilation provides an exceptional amount of entertainment at a nominal cost. The premise of the series is loosely based around a reality TV show following a prankster by the name of Woody driving his cranky neighbor bonkers with a number of practical jokes. The neighbor is usually attempting to impress ladies with his grotesque figure and keep his annoying mother partially off his back. This premise oozes with originality, although the reality TV portion of the story is downplayed in the presentation.
Gameplay: The object of the game is to increase the neighbor's anger meter as quickly as possible to send him over the edge. This can be accomplished by finding the correct sequence that the pranks should be played. The tricks are pretty varied throughout each level and one trick can influence another. For instance, one level requires you to saw a bridge railing loose for the neighbor to take an unexpected swim. While that will make him mad, adding the electric eel in the nearby aquarium to the pool under the bridge will skyrocket his anger. Sometimes the tricks require getting the other characters involved in the action. For instance, incorporating his mother's little pet terrier into one of the pranks will send his mother into fits who takes out her anger on the son.
As the pranks rack up, your point totals will as well. Each board has a minimum level of tricks to accomplish before moving to the next level. While just doing the minimum will accelerate your progress through the first two thirds of the game, the final rounds require a higher number of tricks to be completed before moving on. It's best to complete the majority of the tricks on the starting boards, as they will be easier to complete than the more complex levels.
There are some differences between the original and its sequel. The first game uses a time limit for each episode while the sequel opts for more relaxed play without a timer. The number of lives has been increased from one to three in the second game, but it's not much of a difference due to the use of quick saves. Also, the sequel adds an element of accuracy to acquiring certain game objects in the form of an Operation-esqe mini-game.
On a separate note, there are no multiplayer features in either game. The style of gameplay isn't setup for such modes.
Graphics: Visually, the game uses colorful, static backgrounds in combination with a classic, clay-mation animation of the game characters. The characters are reminiscent of the Wallace & Gromit series of cartoons. The animations are all pre-programmed, but quite fluid. Occasionally, I wished there was a greater range of motion when moving Woody around, but it's a negligible fault. While the game won't push any graphical limits on current PC technology, it's nice to see a title that can play on older machines while still retaining a bit of visual beauty.
Audio: Opting for a Sims style of speaking, there are no voiceovers recorded for Neighbors from Hell. Instead, we get a series of squawking noises from the characters when a trick is played. While as infrequent as the voices, the sound effects are accurate and effectively match the objects that are incorporated into each prank. For the most part, you will be listening to the soundtrack during each round of play. Each music track attempts to match its surroundings while staying fairly light and bouncy. Overall, the auditory quality doesn't have any serious flaws and it matches the nature of the game.
Conclusion: Neighbors from Hell: On Vacation is a creative attempt at a light-hearted strategy game. While the game offers a plethora of levity, it suffers from repetitive gameplay and overly easy level objectives. The only true challenge is determining the sequence that tricks should be played. The game is best enjoyed in small bursts as opposed to flying through all the levels in a couple days, which is possible. Both games combined will take about 8 to 10 hours for completion. In all likelihood, the game is specifically targeted at children or young teenagers with excellent problem solving skills. I recommend downloading of this title to parents looking for a good-natured game that their kids are sure to enjoy.
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