Landline Review – Kill Waiting

Landline Review – Kill Waiting

Platforms: Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Landline

Publisher: Jungwoo Yom

Developer: Jungwoo Yom

Genre: Puzzle

Release Date: May 19th, 2023

Landline by Jungwoo Yom

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is one of the most effective thriller movies of all time. The idea of something sinister unfolding in your own backyard while you’re powerless to do anything about it taps into a very primal fear for many people, and it’s surprising that it hasn’t influenced more video games.

Solo developer Jungwoo Yom has taken a stab (pardon the pun) at turning this movie’s core premise into a puzzle game. It’s a novel idea, but how well does it work?

Call Me, Call Me

Landline‘s premise is simple: a killer is stalking the building across the street, and you need to keep its residents out of harm’s way. The catch is that you can only do this by calling the building’s different phone numbers and telling someone where to go to hide. Keep everyone alive until a certain hour, and it’s onto the next level.

Progression gets noticeably more challenging as each level throws more wrenches into the works. More residents have to be guarded, new mechanics for movement and distractions are added, and you need to be thinking about where everyone’s going to end up on each individual turn.

It’s a game that clearly has a lot of thought put into each puzzle. Unfortunately, the tools you’re given to solve them leave a lot to be desired.

Prank Caller, Prank Caller!

Landline’s puzzle design is unfortunately undermined by its gameplay. The rotary phone mechanic, while novel, ends up feeling fiddly and repetitive as you advance. I’m all for novelty in game experiences, but here it’s a serious detriment to the actual puzzles.

Not only that, but the game does an extremely poor job of explaining its mechanics. Aside from one or two tutorial prompts, you’re largely left to figure things out through trial and error. It would be one thing if this was a deliberate design choice, but it isn’t. Even once I fully grasped how to call residents and how they would move between floors, I constantly felt like I was solving puzzles by trial and error, not any actual thought of my own.

The game’s UI also leaves a lot to be desired. While the simple graphics are charming and functional in their own way, the iconography all blends together and becomes incomprehensible. Even little things like colors end up being a problem, as multiple residents are often the same one, making the game’s display of where they’ll move next into a guessing game.

Landline’s concept is sound, and there’s some legitimately interesting design in its puzzles. Unfortunately, the simplicity of a puzzle game often serves to highlight its flaws, and this one has far too many. I’d like to see the idea expanded upon, but for now, this is a call best left unanswered.

Landline is available via Steam.

Watch the trailer for Landline below: