Once I was a teen, I labored at a quick meals joint, and I clearly keep in mind the stress and anxiousness I felt when a buyer with a extreme allergy got here in. We might wipe, sanitize, and clear each utensil and repair, however I used to be additionally very conscious that we have been a bunch of minimum-wage employees, a few of whom got here into work lower than sober. If anyone tousled even just a little, an individual might die. I had forgotten that stress till I performed House Security Hotline, an analog horror sport from Evening Sign Leisure.
In House Security Hotline, it’s 1996, and I’ve simply began my new job as a telephone line operator for the titular hotline. Because it’s the ’90s, everybody can afford a home, and so they’re prone to encounter points like mildew, mice, or an odd metamorphosis occurring of their basement. Just like Management’s FBC or the SCP Basis, the House Security Hotline is a corporation devoted to managing supernatural emergencies in the actual world. At first, I largely cope with mundane pests, however as I proceed to do properly and earn extra belief from my superiors, I get to deal with heavier instances with creepy cryptids.
The sport performs out on a 1996 PC the place I can test my e-mail, watch promotional movies, and go browsing to the customer support terminal. As soon as I’m clocked in for the day, I obtain quick calls from involved residents. I hear, test my database of dwelling hazards, choose the suitable one primarily based on the knowledge shared, after which ship the caller an data packet.
Picture: Evening Sign Leisure
If all goes properly, I received’t hear from them once more. If I make an oopsie doodle and misdiagnose the difficulty, I obtain a follow-up name that ranges from irritated to energetic homicide. I additionally get a number of crank calls, simply to maintain me on my toes. Once I see a caller, I get to guess whether or not I’m getting a brand new inquiry, getting yelled at for a slip-up, or about to get a crank name from a bored teen.
House Security Hotline is the type of sport that may be knocked out inside a few hours. Even if you wish to attempt for the entire endings and discover every end result, it is a comparatively bite-sized sport. Regardless of its size, it’s memorable and refreshingly distinctive.
There’s a guidelines of belongings you’re prone to encounter briefly horror video games: bounce scares, the protagonist narrating their actions, creeping via darkish hallways. House Security Hotline has none of this stuff. The horror comes from getting a glimpse at one other world, one the place mirror nymphs lurk within the woods to steal your face or a portal may quietly open in your basement. The extra authorization you unlock, the weirder issues get, and the slide into weirdness is punctuated by new company movies and deranged emails from a former worker.
It’s very efficient analog horror, full with mouse and keyboard sound results. I used to be born in 1990, so I felt proper at dwelling with the House Security Hotline interface. The moments the place the interface is gradual, the sound distorts, or a picture is badly compressed convey a powerful sense of wrongness and unease. This implies even mundane calls about black mildew and carpenter ants assist ratchet up the stress, and the massive scares land higher in consequence.
Picture: Evening Sign Leisure
As an alternative of bounce scares and violin stings, the horror comes from gradual, creeping realizations. That buyer I simply helped has consumed a deadly toxin. I do know it, and my supervisors understand it, however he doesn’t. This lady calling in about her lacking youngster has no concept that her son has fallen prey to a magical phenomenon. Once I test the suitable file, the documentation confirms he’s not coming again… however the mother is eligible for a reminiscence wipe!
One name specifically actually shook me. I didn’t diagnose a creeping plantlike development in a person, and positive sufficient, he referred to as the following day. However in the midst of our dialog, the plant swelled and cracked via his cranium. That is all conveyed via low-quality audio, however it’s so completely off and disturbing that it caught with me for days afterward.
There’s one thing putting about coping with individuals in immense peril from the protected distance of a cubicle or dwelling workplace. I used to be reminded of the fear I felt whereas wiping down grills and cleansing my utensils, hoping I might belief our protocols however fearing that one thing would one way or the other go unsuitable. It’s a worry that feels far more private and fewer well-worn than many widespread horror tropes, and that’s a part of why I discovered the expertise so deliciously unsettling.
House Security Hotline is out there on Itch.io and Steam.