There’s something to be said for games that simply focus on telling a story. They are either loved or hated, as is the case with games like “Dear Esther” and “Proteus”. In “Gone Home”, you take on the role of a teenage girl (Katie) who’s come home after a full year of studying abroad. As you may have guessed, the experience of coming home didn’t exactly turn out the way you had expected. With the family missing, it’ll be your job to explore your house in an effort to piece together what has transpired. Before we get started, I’d like to thank Steve Gaynor from The Fullbright Company for providing me with a free review copy.
The main menu will allow you to start a new game, continue where you left off, and adjust game options. The options menu covers your basics, touching on things like screen resolution, audio sliders, vsync, motion blur, graphics quality, depth of field, keybinds, mouse sensitivity, various game settings, and more. Nothing too fancy, but it addresses everything you’d need from a hardware standpoint in order to play the game and enjoy your experience. In terms of resuming your game, there is no save file system, the game simply remembers where you left off and plops you right back down to continue your journey.
Oh, and what a journey it is. There’s nothing like a good mystery to get the blood pumping. Interacting with the objects in the environment to satisfy these curiosities couldn’t be easier…simply point and click. You’ll even be able to rotate objects in 3D, much like you could in “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”. There is certainly no shortage of objects to check out and explore, in fact it would behoove you to do so. You’ll have access to a journal, map, and backpack to keep you on task, though most of your time will be spent “ooo-ing” and “aww-ing” at the environment around you. On that note, the game is certainly a pretty one…the sounds and the ambience really made my skin crawl as I explored the house.
Progression is scripted in that you’ll need to explore the house in a particular order to experience the story as it’s meant to. Doors that start out locked can be opened later simply by advancing further into the story. I’m glad the game was designed this way, as it would have been unfortunate (at least, for me) to explore the story out of order. “Dear Esther” was more freeform in this way, and thus I didn’t always know if I was exploring things in the correct order. “Gone Home” is more linear and thankfully so. Of course, modifiers exist before the game begins that unlocks all of the doors from the get go should you just want to roam freely.
It’s difficult to write about the story, as the narrative is the basis behind the entire game. I will say however that the majority of the story will revolve around your sister, Sam. You’ll find notes lying around for you to read and on occasion, Sam’s voice will fill your headset as she “reads” journal entries that are based around the objects that you discover. You’ll eventually discover the resolution to a heart-breaking tale that will leave you sitting in your chair for a few minutes after the game is over…at least, that’s what happened to me. The game as a whole took about two hours to complete, with the only real puzzles being safe combinations that you’ll have to find the numbers for. You can blow through the game in about thirty minutes if you know where to look.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet…”Gone Home” is quite possibly the best narrative game that I’ve played in a good, long while. It’s very polished and pretty to look at, but the real gem is the story that unfolds as you play. No scares, no ghosts…just a good, old-fashioned story that will leave you wanting more. On that note, the game is priced at twenty bucks, which may be pushing the limits of a two-hour game. While I love the story, the level of detail, and the ambience, I can see where folks might feel disappointed after dropping twenty bucks on a two-hour game that doesn’t have much replayability…after all, the story and the adventure are linear by default. If the price is within your comfort level, then by all means pick this game up…you won’t be disappointed.
Final Verdict: 9/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Gone Home” by visiting the following websites:
You can view video play sessions here:
You can check out my walkthrough, here: