Im going Home: A Gone Home Review
Gone Home is an experience, not a game an experience. This is the first thing you should know about gone home. don’t expect to be solving some crazy physics puzzles or performing complex button combinations. Gone Home is none of those things. What gone home is, is a deeply personal tale of discovery and coming of age in a time thats is resonant with pretty much everyone who was once a “teenager”.
The premise of gone home is rather simple, you are the oldest sister in a typical american suburban family. After one year of travel around europe you arrive back home to a new house you have never been to before with nobody home and a note on the door left by your younger sister. All you are left to do is explore the house and piece together the story of what happened to your family.
if i was to describe the game by comparing it to other games i would say its the logical progression of the visual novel, a genre of games that have really up until now how have been limited to 2D japanese inspired mangas with dialogue options, Even though this strips away any sort of dialogue options. Gone home is certainly not the first of this evolution of this genre. Games like Dear Esther and Korsakovia developed by The Chinese Room, have been doing narrative only games for a while. Gone Home however furthers the genre by taking influences and techniques from the bioshock series and myst and uses them to create a narrative that the player has to figure out and interpret themselves, this is where gone home strength lies.
The way gone home tells its story is entirely though the environment and the objects scattered around it. With the house inadvertently becoming the narrator. Even though there are diary entries you get read aloud by your younger sister, i wouldn’t call her the narrator as she is not directing you through the story, the house is. The game is an excellent example of level design, the way the house feels like a house that is real it’s logically laid out in a way thats scarily familiar. The feeling as soon as you walk into a room you instantly know where the lights are, you know which way a door opens you know what room is the lounge or who the study belongs too even though you have never been there before is chilling. as well as this the house directs you along the linear narrative that it doesn’t feel linear, as the player i felt like I had agency over the story. I could choose how much or how little of it i experienced over the roughly 3-4 hours of play. The first time though you can easily miss several sub-plots depending how through you search the house. Which lends itself nicely to another 2 or 3 playthroughs.
Opening the door to the hallway hearing the thunderous storm outside, the faint sounds of the tv giving storm warnings through the walls, all gave me this feeling of dread that i might find some horrible thing or that something might jump out in front of me was just unnerving. Though game never played into my expectations. It toyed with them, it twisted them, it took the stereotypes that i knew and was slightly comforted by and messed with them in such a way that by the end i was feeling intense connections with the story and it characters that i was in tears after finishing it even feeling a little bad that I thought those thoughts in the first place.
Gone Home is not a game its an experience, its the logical evolution of a genre. It is a triumph in environmental storytelling, game design and is going to be one of the most polarizing gaming experiences of this year. For $20 gone home is a game i can wholly recommend to anyone interested in how using environmental storytelling effectively can tell a story better than most movies you would pay the same amount for. Even for people who just want an engaging story that different from the traditional videogame narrative its a must play.