Developer: The Fullbright Company
Publisher: The Fullbright Company
Release Date: August 15, 2013
ESRB: N/R (T suggested)
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
If you“re someone who has left the home they were raised in, then you likely know the feeling of becoming separated from that world. Although you may call home occasionally or write letters and emails, there“s nothing like actually being in close proximity with those you call family. After a while, coming â€œhomeâ€ becomes an almost alien experience. There are familiar tchotchkes around, but so too are examples of how different everything has become. As you have moved on with your life, so too have your family members.
Gone Home wallows in this concept as players take on the role of a young woman named Katie who is finally coming home after a year abroad. Her adventures across Europe may have been great, but they didn“t stop time from ticking back in her family“s home. She returns to the house during a storm with no one to greet her. Leaving her bags at the porch, Katie finds her hidden house key and enters into the home her family has been inhabiting without her. Only your younger sister Sam appears to have prepared for your return, leaving notes for you to explain the goings on.
Beyond that, the story is what you make of it. Rather, the stories of your mother, father, and sister are what you come to explore through traversing the house. With no one around you are completely free to snoop around. No monsters will come out of the closet and no timer will hurry your progress along. You are free to spend the entire night in this empty, dark house just combing through their rooms and belongings.
It might not seem like the most compelling game, but Gone Home is incredibly interesting once you begin to scratch that curious itch. As boring as the house may initially seem, its hugeness hides many, many rooms which beg to be explored. When looking through old notes, drawings, and other items you begin to piece together the lives of your family members. Things are not as dull as they might have outwardly seemed. Although it does not feel like every one of them gets an equally enthralling story, they all have their joys and sorrows bared for your edification.
Exploration is a fairly stress-free endeavor. As you explore the house, flicking on lights as you go, rooms reveal interesting tidbits of information. Sometimes you have to lift up a book to find something revealing underneath or simply read a crumpled up note in the trash. For the most part, discoveries feel natural. The more you discover, the more you learn about what happened on your year away. The more you learn, the more you want to know, and that fuels searching through the extravagantly large home. As for the story, it is revealed in pieces, and it is your job to put them together in a meaningful way.
The game is primarily a point-and-click styled adventure experience, but without the stress. There are a few locks to find the key for, as well as locked objects, but they do not require solving riddles. Instead, you just need what makes sense for the situation. You need a key or you need to find the note that has a locker combination scrawled on it. As long as you“re investigating the house thoroughly then this is never an issue. You might miss a few secrets, though, if you“re not looking hard enough.
Although explaining the story in Gone Home is something one simply can“t do in a review, it is worth noting how incredibly well done it is. Everything does not need to be spelled out because The Fullbright Company showcase their skill at providing multiple narratives which are pulled together from pieces. Without a completely clear picture I was still able to become wrapped up in the narrative and even felt my own teenage memories resurface as I found similarities between Sam and myself.
Then there is the music which solidifies the themes present in the story as well as placing it all in a very specific 90s timeframe. Throughout your wanderings you'll come across homemade cassette tapes containing tracks from riot grrl artists Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy. They fit right in, adding a new layer to the characters, as well as infusing exciting tracks into the game.
There will certainly be people who dislike Gone Home but they are people who are at odds with video games being anything other than shooter/action fests. Anyone who has grown up should be able to connect with pieces of the story, and yet others will appreciate the '90s memorabilia. As a whole, the narrative experience is definitely one of the better I“ve experienced in a game and it is hard to express just how engaging it truly is without playing. As such, I urge you to give the game a shot whenever possible. It may only offer a few hours of content, but those hours are completely worth it.
+ Focus is on stories that are unlike what the rest of the gaming medium provides
+ Great soundtrack
+ Story told via player interaction is very well done
- Fairly short experience
- Lots of extraneous objects that confer no story tidbits
Overall Score: 9.0 (out of 10)
Playing Gone Home is an incredibly interesting experience which takes players into the lives of four family members. This minuscule description does no justice to the game, but check it out if you“re at all intrigued.