We are in an age of gaming where everywhere you look there is another survival/crafting game coming out or entering early access. Thankfully, Phoning Home does not fall into the usual tropes of those games. Phoning Home follows the adventures of a little robot name ION and his eventual follower ANI. ION is also guided by his communications systems, no naturally he’s the robot who will guide you through this dangerous world. The story sees ION crash landing onto a foreign planet, and with nothing more to go off of, the little guy sets out on a mission to repair his ship and gain contact with his home world by, well, phoning home.
Right off the bat: Phoning Home looks really great. I ran the game as high as I could and the results came out quite well. I didn’t notice too many graphical errors in the time that I played Phoning Home. Some of the secondary effects look a little lax, like the fire that surrounds your ship almost feels like an excuse to put an invisible wall there. Other effects worked well, though, like the way the teleporter distorts the space around it.
The HUD is super simplistic, which in this case is nice because you can focus more on the world itself rather than various screen intrusions. Moving through the world feels more natural than clunky–you really feel like a little levitating robot floating around.
ION is equipped with a multitude of different tools to help him along in his journey. ION can sprint and use his jets to reach new heights. I appreciate that the jets don’t immediately send you flying; it takes a second for lift-off, which feels more natural. ION also has a scanner which is used to scan and pickup different resources in the world. Once you scan the resources they will be marked on your map for the rest of the game. This makes finding materials you need for crafting easier, but at the same time clutters up your top compass. At times, it can feel like the resources were just placed in the world for no rhyme or reason.
Other than that, the world feels natural and is filled with sounds and noises appropriate to the setting. The music even changes when an enemy is pursuing you. ION has a harsh journey ahead of him, and his success won’t come without a little help.
And so, without spoiling too much, you come across another ship and set out to find the mobile unit that flew it down. This mobile unit turns out to be your new partner, ANI. This immediately starts to feel like a Wall-E relationship. You know, the cute little robots Wall-E and Eva? Yeah, way to tug at my heartstrings by basically making your entire game a Wall-E reference (which I love). ANI will help you with many of your tasks as she follows you ’til the very end. This is a life defining journey for the two and makes the story worth following.
ION also has different abilities at his disposal to take care of any obstacles in his way. As you progress through the game, you will unlock different items to craft that will help you out. The main slot is occupied by your current weapon, which you’ll find throughout the world. You start off with a metal pipe–which is more than enough for me, but not quite enough for the enemies.
The first and only enemy that I came across was what looked like a swarm of orange flies. They very swiftly consumed me and tore down my hull, then I died. This was a little frustrating as the combat didn’t really seem cohesive. In addition to your hull damage, you have to keep track of your fuel and energy levels. These levels can be adjusted by making fuel or power cells. This is a key point in Phoning Home and adds another layer to the game. Sure, this could be compared to hunger in Minecraft and stamina in other games, but it’s cool because ION is a badass robot.
Phoning Home sticks out among a crowd of the same old survival games. Not many of these games recently have a strong story with such different elements to its character. The comedic balance from your ship’s communication and the deep relationship between ION and ANI is unmatched in this genre. With beautiful graphics and nice ambiance to boot, the people over at ION LANDS take home a win for this one.
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Review statement: The copy of this game was provided by the developer for the sake of this review.