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Home Safety Hotline Is the Lifesaver Horror Movies Need

Nicholas Lives Home Safety Hotline is an unorthodox horror game where you are the low-tech call center addressing supernatural creatures and monsters.

What kind of idiot experiences blatantly paranormal events and then, instead of seeking help, picks up a camcorder? Virtually anyone in a found footage movie, and then they act all surprised when the horrifying entity murders them / possesses them / blocks their toilet. Fortunately, Home Safety Hotline is here to put things right.

Instead of strapping a proton pack on your back or handing you a flashlight and dumping you in a disused asylum, Home Safety Hotline puts some distance between you and the terrors. The Steam Next Fest demo has you working in a ‘90s call center, listening to the troubles of the mostly coherent callers.

Admittedly, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first, having intentionally skimmed over the Steam Store description. It lulled me into a false sense of security by having me diagnose the presence of mice, moles, and more. But bit by bit, the demo added some more esoteric entries to my catalog of possible pests.

I did a double take when I saw “Stair Slug” pop up, but after perusing the entry, I began to realize just what I was in for. The grainy art style helps sell these creatures, but what really makes them stand out is the sheer amount of lore surrounding them.

Nicholas Lives Home Safety Hotline is an unorthodox horror game where you are the low-tech call center addressing supernatural creatures and monsters.

Developer Nick Lives could have taken the easy route and just thrown in a few SCP knockoffs. But instead he’s gone all out, creating beasties and other hazards inspired by Western folklore. I won’t spoil the surprise, but let’s just say that you’ll never want to eat another beet.

The callers themselves are suitably exasperated, more so if you incorrectly diagnose their issues. I wanted to pat every caller on the back for having the common sense to actually seek help.

Yes, instead of grabbing a video camera, they’ve done the right thing and called HSH and its sister organization HSH Pest Control. Your role is to listen carefully and, using the data HSH provides, diagnose the creature or creatures that are plaguing the caller.

You don’t get the final outcome of each call, nor do you hear the recorded advice that, subsequently, is played for the callers. But since HSH Pest Control is basically the Ghostbusters, I ended each call safe in the knowledge that things would be handled.

That said, as anyone who’s worked in a call center will know, there are always a few unwelcome callers, and Home Safety Hotline’s cubicle farm is no exception. You’ll want to write them off as a prank call, and the laughter at the end does suggest that. But the way their voice wavers, like they’re chewing on a mouthful of gravedirt, will give you a sleepless night or two.

Nicholas Lives Home Safety Hotline is an unorthodox horror game where you are the low-tech call center addressing supernatural creatures and monsters.

Speaking of losing sleep, HSH will spook you in some unexpected ways. I was absent-mindedly browsing the HSHpedia (for want of a better name), waiting for a call to come in, reading the entry about moles.

Everything seemed normal, right up until it started talking about how these fuzzy little guys have “close relations to the ones beneath the soil, which can cause further danger.” I had to pause the game, just to let this sink in and to dispel the unease I felt.

Had the demo changed the second time I played it? Or did I just skip over that line, only seeing what I expected to see? I’m tempted to go back and pick through the other “normal” entries to see if they’re also a little off.

Unfortunately, Home Safety Hotline doesn’t have a release date yet, but I can wait, not least because it’s a solo project. I’m definitely curious to see what consequences the final release will have if you fail to identify a creature.

I’m also a little scared because HSH is bound to escalate matters, and I’m not sure if my nerves can take this. Jump scares I can handle, but I can see the final game dialing the unease up to 11. Still, if it means averting even one shakycam death, it’ll all be worth it.

If you want to experience the horrors of Home Safety Hotline, the PC demo is still available via Steam.

About the author

Chris McMullen
Freelance contributor at The Escapist. I've returned to writing about games after a couple of career changes, with my recent stint lasting five-plus years. I hope, through my writing work, to settle the karmic debt I incurred by persuading my parents to buy a Mega CD. Aside from writing for The Escapist, I also cover news and more for GameSpew. I've also been published at other sites including VG247, Space, and more. My tastes run to horror, the post-apocalyptic, and beyond, though I'll tackle most things that aren't exclusively sports-based.