With cool retro vibes that hail back to classic cartoons like Pink Panther, Safe House from Indie developer Mark Collins AKA Lab Games get’s you intrigued with the possibility that you are about to slink down in your seat and immerse in official mischievous activities that need your intelligence and prowess to manage. A lifelong passion for mystery and sleuthing I couldn’t wait to jump in and bring you our review!
In Safe House you take on the role of an intelligence officer with the CIA tasked with recruiting, training and deploying spies from a top-secret location in the fictional African city of Kazataire. By completing missions to earn new abilities and unlock operations – your capability of solving tasks given you leads to a number of possible endings.
Safe House is a single-player campaign. Your secret location is a facility that you view from a sideways 2D angle starting off with the entry room in the front and loading dock in the back. Upstairs quietly sits a man at his desk. From there you learn to decipher greetings, break codes, match blood types and so forth. Each success earns revenue to then upgrade each room to it’s associated job function. Construction is the first phase, then you have assigning agents followed by managing your daily routine.
As you construct each room, a task will follow highlighting one of the rooms. These rooms, with their job tasks, offer the same style of puzzle for you to solve. At first, this was exciting but it doesn’t take long to realize that puzzles may be the incorrect term as each room unlocked with it’s assigned appropriate dossier that feels more like references than puzzles. Pretty quickly you begin to feel like a librarian more than a detective but you persevere curious if this changes. It does not.
The campaign mode is essentially a tutorial mode, that’s in a loop that feels like it will never end – start a day, complete each task until 10 am, review your earnings or losses – making sure you never reach the limit that is essentially supporting criminals. There really isn’t any clues on how to fulfill each task for the first time, so Safe House feels more like troubleshooting than a fun mystery. Once you get to assigning agents the real frustration begins as there seems to be a bug at this stage or the pacing of the game doesn’t seem to match the rest. I almost reached for my calculator to ensure all my earnings added up as I started to lose trust in the game and its intention. What is perhaps the only or most puzzling experience is the very first room is essentially the most fun of all of them, so you don’t build up to anything, which eventually makes you feel like you have wasted time.
Lab Games is a one-man team so we can make considerations, however, I simply cannot call Safe House a puzzle game, its more like a 2D Spy Simulator set in rinse repeat mode which might be someone’s cup of tea if they knew this is what they were getting into from the outset.
There are two modes to play, a Story mode that comes with interesting cinematic sequences throughout or Endless mode that has the story stripped of it. Yes it becomes easier to use the UI and scan the dossier but Safe House leaves a sense of dissatisfaction. It feels incomplete, with consideration given to the routine more than the mystery. However, it has potential to tick all the sleuth fantasy boxes so I will be back to check on it again later in the year.
Note: Our review was done on PC with a code provided by the developer.