Espionage. Spies. Construction, and retro games like SimTower. If these words catch your eye, then maybe Safe House is the next strategic game for you. Developed by LABS Games, Safe House places the player behind the scenes of a top-secret safe house situated in Kazataire, a fictional African nation. It is your job to develop this safe house from an empty warehouse with only two workers, to a thriving top-secret spy headquarters with spies and soldiers at your disposal.
The People Behind James Bond
You live each day carrying out multiple tasks, starting at exchanging secret phrases to lure out the enemy spies. Then it builds up to different tasks such as decoding scrambled messages, curing injured spies, and training Black Ops soldiers and sending them out on missions. By playing this, you are collecting cash and XP that’s used to upgrade or add rooms and complete missions.
Whilst this is all playing out in a Sims-style mode, a story is also playing out involving the CIA in Kazataire, and their mission of taking down the current President and infiltrating the government through the campaign. However, the ending won’t be the same for everyone, because whatever choices you make in your gameplay, the more it shapes the different alternative endings.
The main role the gamer has when playing Safe House is the task-based side of the gameplay, which is centred around these different rooms that you make. This isn’t anything new in terms of this genre, but the challenge comes from these different room’s functions of unscrambling codes and thinking strategically about your choices.
This cryptography task is one of the hardest tasks in the game, where you are given a word to unscramble. The use of the +/- to determine which letters need to change does not make it clear on which letter is + or -.
Living The Spy Life
Whilst I struggled many times in trying to unscramble words using the +/- method, the challenge is what made want to move forward in the game, but it took me a long time to get my head around this task in order to move forward. So much so that I tend to fail this task quite a lot, and when you fail at a task, then the money you would have made goes to the enemy spies, increasing your chances of failing missions.
The beginning rooms can become quite repetitive, especially when it takes a while to make enough money to make new rooms, then running the safe house does become a more interesting game. When soldiers are finally incorporated, after gathering enough money to make the rooms, it starts to feel like you are actually playing the manager of a top-secret safe house.
However, whilst this is all playing out, you forget that there is an actual story going on. There were moments where I didn’t want to continue with the game, but the need to find out what happens is what kept me going. The whole idea of infiltrating a government and civil war is a repetitive storyline, and the characters such as Lewis and Marcel don’t bring much charisma and personality into the story. There could have been more involvement of these two characters in the story throughout the gameplay to resolve this.
The 60s Classics
In terms of the overall aesthetics of the game, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed with the final result. The introduction and title credits’ artwork are definitely executed with colourful and striking images. The layout of the safe house is similar to Fallout Shelter with the different floors and rectangle rooms, and yet it felt well-structured and had a certain charm to it.
However, the longer I found myself playing the game, the more the graphics felt clunky and the artwork looked less impressive. However, the lack of music when in the activity phase did not help in complementing the graphics of Safe House. It seemed to only play when out of the phases. This little change in keeping the music playing whilst in the different phases would have made a significant difference in how the game plays out.
Safe House is a game that boasts about the fact that you get to be a manager of a top-secret CIA safe house, and in a way through the different tasks and the storyline, it does feel like that. However, the overall style of the game does not feel as polished enough as it could have been. The tasks are fun and challenging enough, but does not give me a reason to replay this game, even if there are multiple endings. That does not mean to say that you shouldn’t try the game, because there are redeeming qualities to it. Check out the Safe House steam page if you are interested in the type of classic spy genre of the 1960s, with a flourish of SimTower.