Developer: The Fullbright Company
Publisher: The Fullbright Company
Plot: Kaitlin Greenbriar comes home from a trip aboard and finds her house empty. Where is everyone and what dark secrets lie in the house?
Gone Home is the kind of game that you will either love to pieces or feel totally unsatisfying when the closing credits kick in. The best way to describe it is definitely ‘Indie’.
You have to appreciate it on a certain level for what it is. The graphics and art style are really impressive, taking that comic book style that has recently become the flag for any Indie game that wants to be something a little different. The level’s layout feels very three-dimensional, featuring a massive backstory that I am sure gamers looking for something a little more thoughtful will appreciate. While exploring the house, you will find that the missing family has its secrets, ranging from secret affairs and the dark attraction of a teenage crush. The game plays on the voyeuristic style of most video games and there is something dark about uncovering each new secret of the relationships between the family. You get that experience of stumbling of something you really shouldn’t know and a game that can generate that kind of atmosphere deserves praise.
The creepiness and eerie nature of the game is also really well built up. There isn’t really a moment of OMG horror, but more of an overall atmosphere that feels unsettling. First, it begins with the flash of lightning that jolts you out of a dull period of exploring a quiet house. Then it evolves into the creaking on the floor of the house, as if you are not alone. There is never a safe moment, so the entire game has you with your hairs standing up on the back of your neck. The game builds up terror with the subtle tones. There was a rather brilliant moment where you enter a bathroom and notice blood in the bath. It looks like someone took a bloody knock to the head, while bathing – pretty much a trademark in every serial killer or home invasion story. But on closer inspection, you realise that it is just the aftermaths of an attempted hair dyeing. You leave, treated to a rather well thought out scare, but the innocent eeriness still present, the game not showing its true hand too soon. Another feature that tells us that Gone Home was made by developers that really know what they are doing.
If you plan on playing ‘Gone Home’, may I suggest stop reading this review here. What follows is not exactly a spoiler, but I will reveal a piece of information that severely damages the gaming experience once learned. The entire game takes two hours or less to complete, so it will not be a wasted experience. Now, everyone spoiler-scared has left, I can reveal the factor of the game that really dampened the entire mood for me. You begin to suspect it as the game rounds into its closing beats, but there is never a big scare. ‘Gone Home’ thrives off the imagined fear. The absence of the family is logically explained, the noises in the night are just the normal sounds of a house and the supernatural presence is simply kids telling ghost stories. I agree that it is brilliant in its own way, but it also annoys the player with what could have been. ‘Gone Home’ handles build up so well that it could have created the biggest scare moment halfway through and become the horror of the year. Easily. But it prefers the Indie approach, where nothing is afoot, and ‘Gone Home’ becomes nothing more than a character study (the character study is a good one, but again – is it something we want from a ‘game’?). I appreciate what has been done here, but I cannot lie and say I wasn’t severely disappointed when the end titles flashed up.
Final Verdict: Gone Home sacrifices gaming experience for what is, admittedly, an interesting post-modern study on gaming and the mind. More interesting than good.