Gone Home (2013) Video Game Review

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This will be a new 1, because this is my 1st review on a game I bought off Steam during 1 of their sales, and according to the game’s wikipedia page, outside of PC and Mac users, Wii U owners will someday get a chance to play this…sometime late next year.  So if you have a computer and a bit of RAM, I would recommend getting steam.

Gone Home is without a doubt 1 of the most unique games I’ve ever come across, and 1 that would step into the realm of “Video Games as Art”.  It’s not an overly complicated game, in fact there is a great simplicity to it.  The game’s challenge isn’t so much about puzzles, but rather exploring your environment, expanding it, and most importantly, developing the story and characters.  It has even been described as a First-Person Interactive Story adventure, and also as a story exploration game.

The game is set in a large, old mansion, in a place called Arbor Hill in Portland, Oregon.  You play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 21 year old student who has finally returned home after spending a year in Europe.  It’s June 7th 1995, after 1am, and there’s a thunderstorm going on outside.  Kaitlin arrives at the old Mansion, which she has never been to because the family moved into it while she was away – there is nobody home, no Mum, no Dad, no little sister named Samantha, and a few lights are left on here and there, with a big note on the front door from Sam (Samantha), telling Kaitlin not to look for her.  When you finally enter the house, it appears that Sam has been leaving some notes for Kaitlin, and for the rest of the game we go on a bit of a scavenger hunt.  We try to find out, not only what happened while Kaitlin was away, but also where the family has gone by exploring the house, looking at a variety of items, and opening the place up as the story progresses.

As I’ve mentioned before, game-wise, I haven’t come across anything like this.  It isn’t so much a video game, but rather it’s an interactive character study from a 3rd party perspective. What the game likes to do is allow you to be a bit of a detective. Not so much in solving a crime, but rather in the aspect of learning more about people through the things they own and the nature in which they’re presented.  So what you do is explore the house, because the items in the house say a lot about the people inside it.  The more you explore and advance, the more you learn about Mum, Dad, Sam, and even Dad’s uncle, and this includes their dark secrets.  When you start to find the dark secrets, along with the thunderstorm in the background and the squeaking wood of an old house (and the dark, because even if you turn all the lights on, there are still dark corners) it is possible to feel tension.  While Mum and Dad are developed, they mostly take a backseat to Sam, who is the main focus of the development.  We begin to see a lot of interesting choices she has made, and whether we agree with them or not, it’s interesting seeing and hearing them through objects, letters and journal entries rather than seeing the person carry them out.  The game also does a great job in making this 1995 period piece rather authentic, as we find magazines and posters that were released around that time (including an old magazine about Kurt Cobain shortly after his death), and bands that Sam likes, who actually exist.

Anybody who is looking to this for tons of button-bashing, platforming, strategy, heart-pumping action and puzzles of a Resident Evil, Professor Layton or Monkey Island nature will probably be disappointed to find out that this game has none of these.  In the process, this receives a lot of negative reviews from hardcore gamers, even if the game is possibly not intended to please them.  I also would like to let you know, this is a short 1.  It took me less than 3 hours to complete it.  But despite this, I thought it was pretty fascinating…just make sure you’re not paying full price and keep checking steam to see if it’s on sale.

Would I recommend this game?  Yes!…Yes if you like something slower, very different and can suck you into itself.  Yes if you tell stories and would like to see a way in which to develop characters through written letters, personal belongings and interior decorating choices.  Yes if you can get this game at an excellent price (Because for it being, maximum, about 3 hours, this game is incredibly dear for its recommended retail price of £15.  If this price drops down to about £4, I highly recommend checking it out!).  And lastly, no I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a very specific genre of game and assumed this was a 1st person survival horror just by looking at it.  I thought the game had an incredible atmosphere, and the feeling certainly stuck with me even after I had finished it.

Overall Rating: ****3/4 out of 5 (not so much as a game, but rather for what it was trying to do, and I thought it was really good.)

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