After hours and hours of playing various games, the mind goes in a sort of pattern. You know what to expect so you don’t point out predictability but rather see how the developers handled the whole concept they envisioned. And with Gone Home, I was left wondering whether this is quite a refreshing title or simply an underdeveloped one. I decided to go more with the former.
Gone Home is not a new game per se, but given the release dynamics, it is new to users of different devices. Developed by The Fullbright Company, the game was originally released in 2013 for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux, and it took three years for it to come to consoles. The latest versions were released this year for Nintendo Switch and iOS, which is the reason why we are doing the review just now.
In a nutshell, this is a story of a family drama which explores some serious topics. The game begins with our protagonist Katie coming home only to find it deserted. Her parents and sister are all gone and the note left by her father asks her not to try to find out what happened. It’s also important to note that the story takes place in 1995 when the technology we know and use today was not available so Katie has to use her wit and decipher the clues around the house.
I really liked that this was an ordinary story and developers wisely used first person POV to help you get into the matter more deeply. During the snooping around players will find out that Katie’s sister Sam is a lesbian which triggered some serious family issues. Basically, going through Katie’s family stuff, you will be able to unfold the story and it almost feels like you are narrating the game.
Now, the very idea of going through an empty house must make you wonder about the supernatural twist. But there is none here. It may seem like something will jump at you at any moment, but that’s just the house being what it is – an old house. However, although this was interesting, I really wished that supernatural or anything unnatural will happen because the story needed it. After all, exploring the secrets of Greenbriar family was exciting, but the lack of interaction in the game makes it all a tad boring.
The graphics and art are amazing, as are the narrative elements like notes and diary pages. It gives a perfect melancholy to the house and its lack of occupants. It even made me feel alone and unprotected at times, which is something I often felt when my parents left me alone for the holidays. And that is the heart of this game. Developers know what an impact an empty house can have on the child returning home after a while. Instead of a warm family embrace, Katie finds discord and falling out which breaks her heart.
It may not have ghouls and life-threatening shadows, but Gone Home is full of emotions and they easily imprint on the players.