Gone Home Review
Well-written story that players have to piece together, good atmosphere, exploration is absorbing
May not appeal to everybody, short play time does not justify selling price
House of Mystery
In an industry flooded with first-person firefights and zombies, it is always an invigorating breath of fresh air to get the opportunity to play a game from an independent developer. For the most part, indies tend to go against the grain created by AAA developers by providing games that are creative and different. The Fullbright Company’s Gone Home easily stands out amongst both AAA and indie games, but the game feels more like an artistic statement than an actual video game.
Players control a young woman who has returned home to her parent’s house after traveling around Europe. Upon her arrival, a nasty thunderstorm flares up pouring rain down onto the isolated house. For reasons unknown to her, the house is completely empty with no signs of life.
Is there a simple explanation why the house is unoccupied by its owners, or did something more sinister cause their sudden disappearances. Absolutely no exposition on the characters or setting is given to the players upon booting up the game and instead lets the players piece the mystery together.
By reading notes, letters, etc. and investigating the environment, players are given information on what’s going on and receive the backstory on the house and its occupants. This layer of mystery makes the story compelling because it makes the players think. One area of the game’s story is one that has been told time and again, but the mystery element makes it exciting and much more compelling than if it were directly told.
The ambiguous horror element that hangs around the player from start to finish also adds a layer of tension from uncertainty. The writers play this up quite well in a few areas by hinting at the possibility of supernatural occurrences. The fact that the previous owner may have been crazy also hints that something more menacing possibly occurred in the house. These situations are done so realistically and convincingly, that it is hard not to get swept up in the possibilities.
The subplots must be uncovered and figured out, but the main plot revolving around the main character’s sister is told directly and leaves less room for interpretation. By finding her journal entries, the sister’s disembodied voice reads aloud her writings to tell her own personal story.
The main plot, which is still written very well, isn’t as strong as the subplots that have to be pieced together and it is not too hard to figure what happened about halfway through the game. Despite this problem, it is still miles above the countless, idiotic plots that only serve as filler between fights.
Gone Home is a game only because it allows people to control a character and interact with the environment; this is as basic as an adventure game can get. Players walk using the keyboard and pick up or use items with the mouse. Considering how slow the character moves, it would have been nice to have a jog button.
Overall, there really isn’t much gameplay other than exploring the house and picking up stuff since its main focus is on interactive storytelling. The only problem with the core gameplay, is that it only takes about two hours to finish which hardly justifies the $20 price tag.
Graphics & Sound
Gone Home isn’t an achievement in the graphics department, but it gets the job done. Writing on letters, notes, etc. is clear so players should have no trouble reading them, except for some of the ones written in cursive. Sound design is good, especially the background effects like thunder and rain. Even the limited amount of voice acting in the game is done well and manages to be convincing.
Gone Home is a unique and thought-provoking title, even though its gameplay is very simplistic. The mysterious and well-written story in which players must uncover is done well, even if the main plot becomes predictable about halfway through. Unfortunately, the game may not appeal to everybody and its brevity does not justify the price. Wait for it to be featured on the Christmas Steam sale, or Â at a later sale, and give this unique title a shot. You may be surprised.