Gone Home ReviewJustin Ling
Gone Home is a first-person interactive game developed by the Fullbright Company, and a very unique experience. The game puts players in the shoes of Kaitlin Greenbriar, a college student who has just returned home from Europe after a year. However, she soon realizes that there is something off when she sees a note pinned to the front door from her younger sister Samantha telling her not to go looking for her or trying to find out where she is. Kaitlin soon realizes that there is no one in the house, several things are missing, and the only way to find out what happened is to disregard what Sam's note says and go poking around.
Gone Home is probably not going to fit into several people's definition of what a video game is. The game is almost more like a mystery novel, scattering a number of clues throughout the house that Kate must explore. The bulk of the game will be spent examining the many objects in the house in order to piece together what happened though, while players will be able to at least solve the main mystery, careful deduction is required in order to fully understand what the entire family is going through. This is one thing that the game does very well; it encourages players to investigate every object for clues and put those clues together in order to get the whole story. While some players may be impatient and prefer just to get the answer to the main question, this is a game that rewards players for exploration and immersion; it will not outright say the answers to all the other little questions players run into during exploration and instead lets the players figure things out on their own.
Speaking of immersion, it is the greatest strength that this game has. The empty house is a somewhat eerie and almost alien place, replicating what a person who has not been home for about a year may feel upon returning. While it may seem strange that the player, who is supposed to be a stand-in for the protagonist, knows nothing about the family when it is logical that the character herself should, this could easily be explained as the protagonist not being familiar with the family drama going on in her absence that led up to Sam's strange note and disappearance. The game does a very good job in making the character seem like a stranger in her own home and convincing players that the information she finds out about her family is as surprising to her as it is surprising to the player. The makers of the game also work hard to make the idea of this story taking place in the 1990s convincing, most likely invoking nostalgia among gamers who have grown up during the 1990s.
If there is something that players may be concerned about, it is the length of the game. While the game's length will vary between players, given that the players will be examining objects and reading clues for the majority of the game, but the overall length of the game shouldn't exceed past two and a half hours unless the player is truly lost or hell-bent on examining every little thing that can be examined. There isn't much replayability either unless one plays through again looking for clues they might've missed in their initial run; there are no extra stories unlocked for completing the main story, nor are there any bonuses from starting a new game file by loading a finished game file. The asking price for the game may also be a concern, as there are some people who might not be comfortable paying around twenty dollars for a two and a half hour game with little replayability.
Other than the length and little replayability of the game, Gone Home stands as a very interesting example of how far video games have gone as a medium; this is a game that attempts to tell a follow the breadcrumbs' type of mystery through the gameplay, not holding the player's hand and encouraging them to dig deeper to discover all the hidden details in addition to the answer of the game's main driving question. Players who like mystery-solving or immersive games should definitely give this game a chance; while it may be a stretch to say that this game is a masterpiece, it certainly does make one wonder how similar games made by bigger studios might turn out and how it will change the video game industry.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.