Game: Phoning Home
Developer: ION Studios
At its core, Phoning Home is an amalgamation of genres, with elements of survival, exploration, problem solving, and platforming, making for a unique gameplay experience. Presented in a vast, urban landscape, the environment is filled with gorgeous mountain ranges, volcanic fields, and lush green forests.
After crashlanding on a foreign, unknown planet, you take control of ION; a Wall-E inspired robot, who is now responsible for accomplishing the herculean task of “Phoning Home”, in an all too familiar plot that seems to draw further inspiration from a Steven Spielberg classic.
The new-found land initially appears to be quite rich in resources, yet sparse in the more essential elements, all of which can be combined to craft components essential to ION’s survival, not to mention his soon-to-be-found companion, ANI. Fuel cells, hull repairs, and other upgrades are all crafted using these limited resources, which can be found through the assistance of the ship AI and your on-board navigation system.
In the early stages of your journey, you discover another mechanical entity on the planet, ANI; and whilst initially presented as a reluctant partnership, it soon becomes clear that their very survival depends on it.
“Phoning Home” appears to be a calm, and soothing experience that slowly evolves into an unrelenting, unforgiving experience. Your little rust bucket pal is CONSTANTLY in need of a fresh coat of paint, to prevent him from rusting in almost every environment. By this point, resources are quite limited, when taking into consideration that EVERYTHING you do uses up your fuel cells that need to be constantly replenished. As a result, the crafting system tends to become more of an annoyance, as it forces you to constantly scrounge for resources just to keep going.
Over to ANI. Make sure you keep an eye out for ANI at all times. Whilst the pathfinding is generally quite good, the game fails to give you a much needed way of tracking ANI, meaning you at times find yourself having to backtrack 5-10 minutes to find your lost sidekick, wasting valuable resources in the process.
The game does suffer from some technical issues that hold it back from fully realising its pottential; many surfaces seem to be completely undefined; for example, you find you can scale a small hill from one side, but not the other which is just as steep; or a seemingly vertical cliff face, can be scaled as though you were driving on a flat surface. The most annoying of all, was the poor hit detection on the laval deposits, which constantly kept damaging my hull.
Unfortunately a game breaking bug caused my character to constantly spawn below the game world when reloading my save preventing me from completing the game. Some controller issues also rendered the game unplayable in the begininning but I believe the developers have recently addressed these issues in the last few days. Playing the game with keyboard and mouse was also quite intuitive and proved to be a great alternative.
A great entry point for a new developer that simply could have used a little more polish, but at the same time delivers on the survival concept with some intricate puzzles, interesting characters, and a beautifully realised world.
Platform we played on: PC
Game Score: 7/10