Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gone Home Review

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There has been an incredible explosion of first-person games that have absolutely no shooting or combat lately. Dear Esther, Proteus, The Stanley Parable, and Gone Home are probably the best-known games in that category. Luckily they are actually quite different, so once you've seen one you haven't seen them all.

You play as Katie, a young woman who has been traveling Europe for the last year. During that time her family has moved to a new house, and when she arrives there is nobody home. You spend about 2.5 hours exploring the house finding clues about what has been going on in everybody's lives over the last year and where they might be now.

The character you get to know the most is Katie's younger sister Sam. In addition to the notes that you find that reveal more about her, Sam's voice will read an entry from her diary at certain points in the game. Sam's story starts as one of struggling to find friends in a new school setting, to a teenager in rebellion, to a girl discovering her sexuality. It's rather odd feeling most connected to a character who is not the player character, but Katie's role is really to serve as a vessel for the player.

Katie's parents also have stories of their own, but they are not nearly as long or fleshed-out as Sam's. Katie's dad is a struggling author, and her mom works for the Forestry service.

The map was very carefully designed to guide you along a path so that you would discover items in the order that they would add to the story. In that regard they did a very good job, as there were only a couple of spots that I discovered out of order. There was one storyline that turned out to be a red herring, and a couple of moments that made me jump a little, but they turned out to be harmless. Talk about playing with my emotions.

I enjoyed the trip back to the '90s, which was a time that I don't remember very well (I was seven when we hit the new millenium.) Can somebody tell me if mixtapes were really that big back then? I doubt that this game would have worked as well in a modern setting, because nobody writes notes anymore. It's all on our phones and computers now. I also think that the game would have felt much less authentic if the family had not recently moved into the house. It would have been much harder to create a house that felt like it had been lived in for a long time.

All in all I really enjoyed Gone Home. It works much better than Dear Esther, which also attempts to convey a story through letters being read to you throughout the game. Dear Esther's setting was very disjointed from the story, and was difficult to understand. Gone Home on the other hand felt very real and relatable. It is best experienced in one sitting, as it would be very easy to forget important details.

A reasonable price for this game would be $10, which means you should wait for it to go on sale.