When you want to play some different, something unique, your first choice should always be an indie game; and I’m really racking my brain to think of a game similar to Cold Calling, a fast-paced puzzle game set during the Cold War. Luckily for you, developer Can’t Get Enough Games just released a new demo on the Fourth of July (as they teased they would in their interview with us in mid-June) , and I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed this hard at a video game.
Cold Calling places you in the shoes of a switchboard operator who, after having been “let go” from his previous job, is scooped up by members of the Secret Service and given a job as the White House switchboard operator. Now, as the player, it’s your job to make sure that JFK, LBJ, Bobby Kennedy, and Richard Nixon are able to carry out diplomacy without any difficulties or disconnections.
Your job as switchboard operator starts out simply enough: you’ve got the caller on the left and a receiver on the right. The caller will send out a “Call Dot”. You’ll then need to guide the Call Dot with a path of wires to the receiver. If you unplug a wire while a Call Dot is traveling along it, that call is dropped.
Seems easy enough, right? Well, Cold Calling pretty quickly ups the ante: you’ll nearly always have to be directing multiple calls at once, and never with enough wires. That means you’ll have to be actively switching wires in and out in order to get all Call Dots to their correct recipient, all the while making sure you don’t unplug them while they’re carrying a call. In addition, some Call Dots will be distorted, signified by one or two balls orbiting the dot, and will fail even if they reach their intended recipient. Every time you miss a call, the Doomsday Clock will tick closer to midnight, and four missed calls…well let’s just say it’s not just game over for you.
Thankfully, you have a selection of gadgets to help you prevent nuclear war. Gadgets can be attached anywhere on a switchboard that has an empty plug, and the demo includes four: Stabilizers, used to remove distortions; Holders, which can be used to hold a Call Dot in place, giving you some breathing room; Teleporters, which will transport Call Dots without the use of wires, and the Lifeline, which will bail you out if you drop a call with only one free hit remaining. Some levels will start out with some gadgets already in place, and you can equip up to three gadgets before every mission.
Surrounding Cold Calling’s unique gamplay is probably one of the goofiest, funniest video game plots I’ve ever seen. JFK, LBJ, Mao, Khrushchev, Castro, and even Bobby Kennedy and Nixon appear as exaggerated caricatures of themselves, and the cutscenes and phone calls are absolutely amazing . There’s just something about Richard Nixon talking to a sock puppet (controlled by Castro) that is trying to convince him that a horde of nuclear missiles is actually a small Czech town named Floordoor. To make it even better, you’re able to influence the story to an extent. You’ll occasionally encounter Quantum Phone Calls, which allow you to look at the outcomes of two possible phone calls, then choose the one you want to happen. The demo’s current Quantum Calls only allow you to choose between JFK and LBJ, but your mysterious contact promises that there will be many more with other characters.
I’ll admit, I’m not usually one to jump at the chance to play a puzzle game; but Cold Calling‘s unique take on the genre, and the ridiculous story and dialogue come together in a way that meant I just couldn’t put it down. If you like puzzle games, or alternate history that doesn’t take itself too seriously, I’d highly recommend you check out Cold Calling. You can play the demo for free right now via Can’t Get Enough Games’ itch.io page.
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