Game Review: ‘Gone Home’

gonehome_1600x900 I’m not really into games that take gazillions of hours to complete. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to sessions, and when I come back I have lost track a bit of where I was and in some extremes how to even play the game. As an aside on that, it was interesting to stumble across a site dedicated to telling you just how long it takes to beat various games.

Some stumbling around checking out what was new on Steam for Mac led me to find ‘Gone Home’.

From the site:

June 7, 1995. 1:15 AM.

You arrive home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you, but the house is empty. Something’s not right. Where is everyone? And what’s happened here?

Gone home is an interactive exploration simulator. Interrogate every detail of a seemingly normal house to discover the story of the people who live there. Open any drawer and door. Pick up objects and examine them to discover clues. Uncover the events of one family’s lives by investigating what they’ve left behind.

Go home again.

The trailer gives more of a flavour:

In short, you play Kaitlin, the elder sister of the family. You arrive home from a year-long trip abroad, and get back a bit earlier than planned. There’s a big storm. And no-one is home. Your parents are gone, and so is your sister (Sam). More ominously, there is a note from Sam pleading with you not to go looking for answers as to where she is. The answer phone messages upon entering the house don’t exactly help with the sensation of feeling ill at ease.

To say much much more on the plot would make this review a little bit spoiler-ridden. The beauty of the game is really not knowing what to expect when exploring the house. It’s old and creepy, and as you explore you find out much more about the family, both the history and clues as to what has actually happened. The exploration triggers audio logs from Sam’s journal and it is the quite frankly exceptional voice acting which adds real atmosphere and power to the story being told.

This is not a game that is difficult, but that’s not really the point. It’s billed as a ‘story exploration game’ and that’s exactly what it is. You gain access to additional areas of the house as the game goes on in a somewhat linear fashion. There are no puzzles as such in the game – it’s just a case of finding the information you need each time to progress.

There’s a ‘teenage story’ at the core of this game (although there are multiple sub-stories being told), brought to life by the voice journals. The setting of the game in 1995 works well to draw empathy from the player. The house is full of VHS tapes, binders, filing cabinets, old typewriters, vinyl records and so on, all invoking the time period. There’s a great amount of attention to detail to the art direction, music and feel to the house going on.

It’s a short game. It will only take a few hours to get through it. However, it’s less of a game, and more of an emotional story-telling experience. The ending, and the events leading up to it, are told excellently. Again, I’m not going to say much more on that: You need to experience it for yourself.

Available for: Windows, Mac, Linux.
Developer: The Fullbright Company.

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