Dear Home is a unique blend between a sandbox game and a “pushing-blocks / sokoban” kind of game. It focuses on exploring and collecting natural resources from your environment, while the quest items or some more rare materials are obtained by solving small puzzles.
You use the mouse or the keyboard to control a robot that just arrived on an unknown planet, together with 3 talkative spaceship modules. One of them landed right next to you and talking to it / completing the quests that it gives you will act more or less as a short introduction meant to show you the basic mechanics. You’ll find out that the robot can gather soil and mine stone, which can then be used for unlocking new research entries or crafting items.
However, in order to get some of the more rare materials, you will need to solve several block puzzles that are literally laid down on the map. While the game’s perspective is isometric, entering one of these puzzle areas will switch it to a top-down, 2D view. All the puzzles are unlocked from the start and they can be entered and exited any time during your exploration, nothing is restricted in that regard. In terms of difficulty, they’re all pretty accessible and easy to solve, yet far from trivial; some of them will prove to be more challenging than the others.
In the first part of the game, you’ll have to explore without any maps or any kind of guidance. Only after you encounter the second module and complete its quests will you be awarded with a compass (a mini-map displayed in one corner of the screen) and then later with a full map of the area. By then though, you’d most likely have already gotten pretty familiar with the environment (it’s not a very big zone after all), therefore the map itself has only very limited usage, with the compass being the thing you’ll rely on until the end of the game.
The third and last module will enlist your help in picking one of the existing animal species to evolve. This opens up a new series of quests that will require you to craft specific items (and therefore gather enough materials to unlock the corresponding research and then build them).
Dear Home is a small game, in all aspects: there are only 10-15 puzzles to solve, a few types of materials (soil, stone, and iron that are available in moderate to large quantities and 3 other very rare ones); there are only 3 animal species and only 3 different environments (hills, mountain and snow). So as you see, the game aims to keep it simple, but it manages to give you enough things to do with these basic elements in order to keep you occupied for around 3h – 5h (if you want to unlock everything and reach all 3 different endings). Of course, the game can be played even after an ending is reached, just for the fun of finding those rare deep-buried materials and digging for them (there’s a nice sensoring mechanic, a “hot and cold” minigame that tells you if one of these materials is near). The story itself is also pretty basic, but it has a very optimistic note and a nice warm message of spreading kindness.
All in all, Dear Home is a very chill game, slow paced and very calm. There’s no violence involved, and you might even end up being friends with the dinosaur that occasionally chases you if you come too close. It’s nicely made and it deserves your attention if you’re into light and non-complex sandbox & puzzly games.