Available on PC. Reviewed on PC.
Every once in a while, you stumble across a game that you would never had normally played. Sometimes a friend recommends it, sometimes it is on a whim, or in this case, it was based purely on previous review scores. I saw the scores, read the reviews, and determined that I would purchase Gone Home.
As soon as i entered the Greenbriar house, I was transported back to rural America circa 1995. If there is one thing I will take away from this game personally, it is similarities this game had with my past. I grew up in a similar setting, a small town, where children’s whispers of a haunted house resonated with everyone. The cassette tapes, Super Nintendo games, music, artwork, and overall 90′s lifestyle were all things that I could relate to on a personal level, something that might not be applicable to the younger generation of gamers. The pseudo-paranormal ambiance created within Gone Home is something that interested me as a child, and if a game presents any opportunity to take me back to such a fond period in my life, is something that is ultimately worth every penny.
That is where the similarities end. The game begins with the main character, Kaitlin Greenbriar, arriving home from her year long adventure across Europe on a late, stormy night. As you take control of Kaitlin, you will immediately feel as if something is horribly wrong. The front door is locked, the house is a mess, and no one is home.
Gone Home takes you on a fantastic narrative ride through a series of journal entries from your younger sister, Sam, who is writing to you as if she were talking to you. As you explore through the seemingly empty house, you will come across a plethora of artifacts that will progress the narrative, and unlock more mysteries about your family’s life since your departure.
Where Gone Home excels is in the creation of suspense where none should really be. If most of us came home, especially this day and age, we would simply pick up a cell phone, which would most likely still have a signal, to discover where our family is. Not in 1995, however, where such a luxury was simply not an option, and throw in the fact that the severe thunderstorm has disrupted cable and phone service, your mind is left to wander, lost in the Greenbriar household.
The suspense doesn’t stop there either. The game is cleverly crafted to help build suspense with each open door, new room or dark passage. Every single step is meticulously crafted to created more and more tension as you rummage through notes and letter, scavenge through school records, and unlock file cabinets and lockers. As to avoid spoilers, tell me your heart is not beating right out of your chest as you approach ‘the attic’ towards the conclusion of the game.
Gone Home does a great job of using abstract methods to push a compelling narrative forward. There is no one, or nothing that pops right out at you and tells you what is going on. You progress the main narrative, Sam’s story to Kaitlin, through journal entries that are narrated to you by finding clues and evidence of Sam’s life during Kaitlin’s year abroad. But there also lies a few other compelling stories that will not make themselves visible to those who don’t stray far from the beaten path. The relationship between Kaitlin and Sam’s Parents, their mother’s relationship with her friend Carol, their father’s career struggles and Sam’s infatuation with their ‘Uncle Oscar’, to name a few.
The only gripe I really have about this game is the length, which should not top two hours even to the most valiant of explorers. The game could have really benefited with an extra hour or so of gameplay and exploration, but do not let that deter you from playing. What Gone Home lacks in content, it more than makes up for in experience. I found myself looking behind my shoulder on occasion, my heart never stopped pounding and my face kept creeping closer to the screen in anticipation and excitement as to what would happen next.
Overall, it may seem as if a $20.00 price tag may seem a bit steep for a few hours of gameplay, but in my opinion, it is absolutely worth it. The experience i received from Gone Home is something that I will remember for years to come, and I hope that whatever The Fullbright Company does next can hold a candle to the indie masterpiece they created with Gone Home. A truly magnificent experience from beginning to end.