‘No Place Like Home’ review: a messy but lovable apocalyptic farming sim

Yes, you can put hats on your animals

Humans have trashed the Earth and fled for Mars. In this post-apocalyptic farming simulator, your aim is to return nature to a world ravaged by rubbish and build your perfect farm. But first you have some cleaning up to do.

There are literal mounds of garbage everywhere. Playing as Ellen Newland, your job is to break them down and recycle their parts for use on your farm. You begin No Place Like Home with tools that can suck up junk, drill apart tough mounds of muck, beat robotic enemies to death, and water your plants. It’s like a weaponised Henry Hoover paired with Super Mario Sunshine’s FLUDD water pack, and it’ll be Ellen’s closest ally in her quest to find her granddad and restore the local village to its former glory.

Doing so requires breaking apart piles of garbage and then neatly hoovering it up. The mechanics are simple but make for a satisfying gameplay loop: break down junk, hoover it up, recycle. There’s a relaxing bliss in the act of tidying up across the game’s varied biomes, aided by its superb sound effects. Sucking up hundreds of rubbish scraps sounds like a veteran croupier springing through endless cards.

No Place Like Home. Credit: Chicken Launcher.
No Place Like Home. Credit: Chicken Launcher.

Within the areas you’re tasked with restoring, there are other things to do besides hoovering. The land is sparsely populated by characters who remained on Earth rather than going to Mars, and they all want your help. The quests they offer, which include replacing water filters, fixing up homesteads and repairing fox dens, are straightforward. But completing them actively improves the world you’re walking around in. One early NPC tasks you with destroying the radiation-warped trees dotted around the map and planting acorns in their stead. This kind of quest doesn’t provide the same instant gratification that hoovering up trash does but the result – verdant oak trees where once there were none – scratches that itch of accomplishment that all good farming games hope to get right.

The post-apocalyptic genre has been wrung for all it’s worth. But developer Chicken Launcher has applied a healthy dose of absurdist comedy – a Napoleonic pig, well-dressed chickens, and a cast of colourful animal characters – to No Place Like Home in an effort to lighten the mood, and the palette. Rather than, say, the dingy aesthetic of the Fallout games, No Place Like Home features blue skies and lush green fields, even if they’re buried beneath tons of detritus. But rest assured: there isn’t a spot of dreary brown or boring beige in the game that you can’t completely eradicate.

No Place Like Home
No Place Like Home. Credit: Chicken Launcher.

Occasionally you’ll uncover acid-spitting, spider-like robots. In a game where the bulk of your time is spent quietly cleaning up civilization’s refuse and admiring your handiwork, going toe-to-toe with angry mech-spiders sticks out like a sore thumb. Every time I polish off a heap of refuse to reveal a hidden foe, I sigh: it took me long enough as it is to find relaxation in No Place Like Home’s repetition, and having to fight for my life pulls me right back out of it.

No Place Like Home is also riddled with spelling errors and mistakes, which makes it difficult to engage with the game’s dialogue. Alongside some other small issues, it’s harder to love No Place Like Home than it should be. Quirky, lovely games such as this one can prove the perfect chaser to this year’s more challenging titles. But, like the game’s universe, there’s still a bit left to clean up before this title can truly shine.

We played No Place Like Home on PC, which is where it launches on March 17.

The Verdict

No Place Like Home has its issues but there are updates scheduled beyond launch (including a fishing minigame). Some of its biggest problems may be addressed further down the line. But even if not, No Place Like Home has a lot of heart and is worth sinking time into.

Pros:

  • The world looks increasingly gorgeous as you restore it
  • Hoovering up trash is always satisfying
  • Lots of farm customisation options

Cons:

    • Combat doesn’t fit with the rest of the game’s style
    • Repetitive core gameplay loop
    • Irritating spelling errors
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