There are some things best left to be experienced and discovered and that is never more true of the video game Gone Home. For many this will be a more an interactive story. Something in the vane of Dear Esther rather than something filled with gameplay mechanics. It would be easy enough just to tell you to go find and buy this and experience its goodness and it would even better to have a discussion post-finishing but for some they need gentle persuasion to commit to what is one of the most compelling and atmospheric things I have experienced in recent times.
Going Home begins with a phone call and it’s your character’s voice. You are Katie calling from the last stop on your European Trip confirming that you will be arriving home soon. You arrive home to an empty home with an ominous note on the door. What happened will unravel over the next few hours as you explore and discover the story the house has to tell you.
Going Home is the work of The Fullbright Company whose only work up to this point was the brilliant Minerva’s Den DLC for Bioshock 2. A piece of content that was notoriously more highly regarded than the actual game that it came from. The brilliance of their DLC was in large part because of its storytelling. An asset which they have manage to translate here.
As far as gameplay game you walk in first person throughout the house. Examining objects some useful and other completely mundane. Some will even trigger the diary of your sister Sam. She is in her final year of high school and has found love with another woman. Her joys and struggles are throughout the house and in large part discovering what has happened to her becomes your driving goal. It is also the most moving part of the story too. But what exactly happened is a matter of mystery.
It may only be me but I don’t like entering my house alone at night there is something deeply lonely about the experience. When you arrive at the home there is a note from your sister apologizing for the mess. Throughout the house there are hints of a dark history to the house and of course their is the storm that seems to become louder at some of the scarier moments throughout the game. The sense of dread that builds throughout the game is tangible and by the time the story reveals itself you are on edge.
Gone Home is also filled with little details. Toothpaste, audio tables, references to the X-files and nineties music. There is also the rewards of examining and moving things. It’s not simply a house with one mystery but many and the more patient you are in exploring, the richer the story becomes. The immersion is further filled by the sparse but excellent voice acting and the thoughtful clever writing.
The problem that some will have is that no matter how patient you are this is still an extremely short experience. At about an hour and a half play through you may find yourself doing the value proposition. Of course it doesn’t overstay its welcome either. I’m not sure if I see a need for multiple playthroughs either.
In the end there is no puzzles to solves nor much else to do other than explore. This is not an adventure but a concentrated narrative that builds on atmosphere with sound and environmental. You need to know your not coming for the ‘game’ but everything else that is experienced.
Should I Buy It?
Gone Home may be a short experience but it is one filled with great atmosphere, a clever yet moving story and rewards those who patiently explore the abandoned house that is the game’s setting. A Must Buy!
Gone Home Review Cheat Sheet
+ Deeply atmospheric
+ Manages to be both scary and moving
+ Tonnes of detail
+ Rewards patient players
– Very short
-Less game more interactive story