Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gone Home

Release Date: August 15, 2013
Played on: Windows

I've gone back and forth whether to write about Gone Home. It's a hard game to write about because the magic of Gone Home is going into it without knowing anything about it.

But the game affected me in such a way that I want to give it some mention.

Gone Home is the story of Kaitlin, a college student coming home from being abroad in 1995.

With it recently releasing on consoles, I figured it's as good a time as any to talk about the game in the most general of terms.

I'm going to try my hardest not to spoil any real plot points. I may refer to plot points, but I won't give any details.

What I didn't like

There's really not much I can complain about. When the credits rolled, I felt a ton of emotions. 

I guess some of the side stories don't resolve, but in a way you can finish them just by paying attention to your surroundings. The creepy uncle, the disappointing father, the troubled marriage all have relatively complete stories if you're willing to dig. But there was still a part of me that wishes Kaitlin would've resolved the stories out loud.

Beyond that, this mansion is insane. Around the 90th minute I opened another wing I could only think, "this mansion has to be insanely expensive to upkeep." It's an estate the family inherited, but my god, any sane family would've sold this thing the moment they saw it.

What was OK

There was a sense of this curse hanging over this family. The only one that survived the curse was Kaitlin who was away from the family. I feel like some more light-hearted moments could be put in the game to sort of break up the sense of dread, confusion, and sadness that hangs over the Greenbriar estate. 

And at two hours, I really wanted more. But there's also a part of me that thinks anything more than two hours might have taken away from the magic. 

What I liked

This game is steeped in story and environment. The moment you start, finding yourself on a porch, no one answering the door even though the entire family knew you were coming home. You start feeling dread. 

Am I going to walk inside and find my entire family dead? Did they disown me and move without telling? Did they just not get my postcards? Did an inter-dimensional portal open and swallow everyone up? Am I the one that stepped through the portal?

It's an issue that no longer exists because of cell phones, which is part of the reason why the game is set in 1995. The Fullbright Company did an incredible job of building a believable world filled with 90's nostalgia. Cassette tapes, Super Nintendo, corded phones, sticky notes, Riot Grrrl music, it's all here.  

And like I said before, there's this feeling of dread that only builds as you play the roughly two hour experience. Evidence keeps pointing to something fiendish happening in the estate. Every time you unlock a new room you think, "this is it, this is where I find my sister hanging from the rafters and my father dead next to a pistol."

Final Thoughts

I hate when people call these games "Walking Simulators." This is interactive fiction at it's best. I've never felt so many emotions interacting with media since I was a moody teenager watching Eternal Sunshine for the first time. 

Gone Home is worth the experience. Don't read anything about the plot, make sure you have two uninterrupted hours, and experience the story.

Rating: Gone Home is one of those experiences where people have argued the $20 price tag for a two hour game isn't worth it. The two hours you get though are filled with some of the best interactive storytelling I've ever encountered. If you're someone that values total time rather than density of content, then you may want to skip this. 

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