Living in an old house leads to sporadic problems like paint peeling, a leaky faucet, or even disasters like flooding. This is why it’s almost perfect that the day I was getting ready to play Home Safety Hotline, a game revolving around household problems, my basement flooded. It’s as if the universe was trying to set the mood for my review.
As a phone operator in Home Safety Hotline, it’s my job to decipher vague information from callers to understand their problems. Taking place in 1996, we also have an old computer and documents that load slowly on dial-up internet. From the first day on the job, I only have access to files for common problems like bees, bed bugs, ants, etc.
This makes for easy calls early on when they’re as simple as identifying the sound of a mouse squeaking. If this was all there was to Home Safety Hotline, it’d come across as an uneventful simulator. But it quickly becomes clear that something is off as strange redacted entry files start to become available.
This is where the developer Night Signal Entertainment shines as they introduce creepy problems that are difficult to distinguish from real ones. While nobody wants to deal with bed bugs, do you really want to deal with a fungus called Bed Teeth? Personally? Fuck that.
The challenge in helping callers is when these two issues have similar symptoms like itching. It turns Home Safety Hotline into an investigative mystery as if you’re a detective piecing together the clues. And it only continues to get more bizarre as the analog horror bleeds in.
Despite Home Safety Hotline being a short experience of just over three hours, the deeper I got, the more I loved its’ unsettling world. This inspired me to dive further into the folklore that inspired many of the abnormal calls I got. I’m deliberately being vague since I don’t want to spoil anything.
However, it’s fascinating to see the more unusual household problems with in-depth culture behind them. That connection to reality adds to the creepiness. And may even leave you with some new fears. This is why I’m glad to see the phobia options that even go beyond common ones like arachnophobia.
With that said, what disappoints me about Home Safety Hotline is the lack of a strong story. The developer teases you with old videos, cryptic emails, and interesting phone calls. But they never amount to much for an overarching story. Which is a shame since I truly believe Night Signal Entertainment nailed what they wanted to do, but it could be even better.
One other issue I ran into is the varying difficulty across calls. At the end of each day, you’re given a percentage for how accurate you were in identifying caller problems. You won’t know for sure which ones you got wrong, but you may hear from frustrated callers later.
Some problems are blatantly obvious with the clues you’re given while others are almost impossible to solve. This can add to the experience since getting the occasional call wrong won’t end your playthrough. But it can be irritating when you’re rereading entry descriptions and it feels like flipping a coin.
Home Safety Hotline Review | Closing Thoughts
Home Safety Hotline’s use of folklore with a retro atmosphere creates a superb experience. The developer successfully built a creepy little world with a unique premise that easily could have fallen flat. The main negative is they laid the foundation for an interesting story but never really brought it home.
Review Score: 8/10
Home Safety Hotline was provided by the developer via a Steam code.
Jeff is a journalist with over 10 years of experience writing, streaming, and making content about video games. With an associate degree in journalism, he’s a sucker for RPGs, survival games, roguelikes, and more.