Home Safety Hotline is an immersive analog horror experience where players must take calls with problems anywhere from mundane everyday household issues like black mold, all the way to the unimaginable horrors that lurk, and everything in between.
Computer says no
Home Safety Hotline from Developer Night Signal Entertainment, released on January 16th, 2024, after a demo period during the Steam Next Fest 2023, and is available now on Steam.
Story & Gameplay
The gameplay loop here is simple, as such story and gameplay will be bundled into one.
Most of the enjoyment of Home Safety Hotline comes from the creatures, their designs, and their description, so I’ll keep spoilers to the early game.
Players take the role of an unnamed character who, congratulations! has just been accepted into their new job as a home safety hotline employee. You’ll finish your first day and receive an ominous-sounding email telling you that it’s not too late to leave. We, as the player character, obviously take this advice and the game ends. Of course not, we blindly ignore those emails and carry on because, after all, this is a video game.
Daily you’ll be introduced to more and more digitalized entries that ramp up in mysticism and deadliness, you’re goal will be to answer calls from homeowners and correctly send them the right package for their problem, this creates the main gameplay loop. The entries and world-building on display are excellent. I would spend most of my time learning about these entities, their effects, and how to remove them, which ended up being a blessing when I was tested on my knowledge later.
Unfortunately, though, Home Safety Hotline is not without its faults. The tone seems to be all over the place, one minute I’d be listening to the pained cries of a mother who just lost their child, and less than a minute later I’ll be helping someone who’s doing a silly voice and has a “wacky” personality, or getting a silly prank call.
The thing that can impact a lot of players’ enjoyment though, is the fact you never really get any payoff for the calls unless you fail them. Now, I understand that it’s subjective and some people fear the unknown more than others, but after the excellent performance of the aforementioned mother voice actor that genuinely left me feeling awful about messing up, it’s a shame then that most of the time players won’t be experiencing any form of payoff, diminishing the impact of gameplay decisions.
Where Home Safety Hotline disappointed me most was the ending. Without delving into spoilers, the gameplay element was fun, and having the wrench that’s thrown in was a good time, but story-wise it felt like a rushed conclusion with a distinct “well we have to wrap this thing up somehow” vibe. The ending too, is a total disconnect from the main tone of the game.
Graphics & Audio
There’s not much to say about Home Safety Hotline graphically, you’re looking at a computer screen, inside your computer screen. There’s a couple of live-action stuff thrown in that’s in the form of videos, with accurate screen effects for the period.
The audio here truly shines, some entries have sound bites where you can listen to the sounds an entity makes, some of which you can hear in the background of calls, this adds to the immersion, adding another element to the gameplay, and was overall excellently executed. Voice acting wasn’t such a home run though, some performances were excellent and complimented the immersion. Others fell flat and took me out of the experience, however, this could have been due to some of the writing being on the sillier side.
If you’re like me, preferring a meticulous approach and reading over every entry, Home Safety Hotline could take the average person anywhere from 3-4 hours to finish. As previously highlighted, you only really get any payoff if you answer incorrectly, resulting in a lack of replayability.
I came away from Home Safety Hotline both pleasantly surprised with some aspects and disappointed with others, two contrasting tones can work together to create a compelling experience. However, Home Safety Hotline didn’t deliver on that for me.
The captivating creature entries and engaging gameplay loop were highlights, showcasing the love poured into these creations, followed by the occasional fantastic performance. Beyond these aspects, the overall experience failed to resonate with me. That being said, there is an incredible amount of talent on display and I’m looking forward to seeing what the developer puts out next. Therefore, I am awarding Home Safety Hotline the Silver Thumb Culture Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.