In recent years, most AAA games have offered nothing but disappointment. Major publishers have dropped the ball on some of their leading IPs. However, the light of hope still shines through indie and self-published titles. All eyes are now on smaller devs to bring us games that deserve our attention and live up to expectations.
We have seen great experiences from smaller devs and today we will discuss the first small studio project that exceeds expectations. Phoning Home is an adventure, puzzle game that takes you to a hostile planet and it is up to a unique little character to get you back home.
Phoning Home Review
The story is simple but interesting enough to keep you hooked. You are instantly thrown into the game without any prolonged cut-scenes or prior explanations. You will find out what’s going on during your time with the game, Phoning Home successfully keeps your curiosity levels high.
You are playing as ION, a small Wall-E-like robot who is onboard a ship. The ship has crash-landed on a hostile planet and ION’s primary task is to communicate back home. ION is able to communicate with the ship’s AI which is great help. At the start, you have no idea what to do so this AI is your only source of information and tips.
You complete basic tasks of repairing your ship and gathering resources in the beginning. However, slowly you get access to different areas and to the harsh realities of your surroundings. Things take a turn for the better once you meet ANI, another robot stranded on the planet. You need to free it from the claws of a beast but once you do, you have a companion to roam around with. ANI can help in battle so life on this hostile planet will become much easier.
ANI can fly but you need a temporal teleportation device to move around objects that you overcome by flying. This results in challenging gameplay scenarios that will often have you scratching your head.
Controls of the game are fairly simple, nothing complicated about Phoning Home gameplay so you never feel confused or overwhelmed. You use the standard WASD controls to move around, right click to attack, your space bar will help you boost jump and reach higher ground, or jump over ledges.
Moving around burns fuel which you can craft by gathering resources. Going too far from your ship which requires a decent amount of fuel resources. Such a system makes the player think before traveling far and heading toward unknown territory.
Phoning Home is open world and there are real time-of-day lighting and varied weather conditions and temperatures that will affect your gameplay. You have snowy mountains, forests, volcanos, dessert, and canyons. Different areas of the planet are connected via portals which sometimes affects your communication with ship’s AI. Interestingly, you will not be able to use the same portal to go back so you not only have to worry about completing the objective, you also need to find a new way back.
Crafting items is a major part of the game and you eventually get access to different weapons and portal technology. Gathering resources require time, patience but it is crucial to the completion of your quests. You can craft fuel, shields, powerful lasers, HP items, and other devices that will help you on your journey.
Gathering resources are made a little easier by your AI who tracks down the existence of similar resources and marks them your radar. Gather one type of resource, and you will have directions for more of it. You will still need to keep identifying new resources to craft more items. Exploring, gathering, and crafting items means that you will end up spending a lot of time playing Phoning Home.
The world is interesting to explore and hides plenty of secrets. Crafting and gameplay aren’t repetitive, there is a sense of care and attachment with ION and ANI. There are a handful of heartfelt moments in the storyline, the emotional aspect is elevated by brilliant sound design and music of Phoning Home.
Graphically, it isn’t the best looking game but still, the texture quality, lighting, level design, aliasing, all aspects are painstakingly crafted.
The game has been in development for a while and it is evident that developers made use of the time they had. Phoning Home deserves more attention and we recommend you pick this one from Steam, you will not regret it.
We hope developers would consider releasing on consoles as well.