Delve into the empty house and discover the mysteries within
Gone Home, for lack of a better comparison, is marmite.Simply looking at the Metacritic user scores will show you how this comparison works. As of right now, the game has 188 negative, 124 positive and 29 mixed reviews. People seem to either love or hate this title and, to be honest, it’s easy to see why.
Gone Home is a first-person ‘story exploration’ game in which you point and click your way through a mansion in order to solve the mystery of your missing sister. You play as Katie Greenbriar, returning home after a year of travelling Europe to find her new home empty. On the door hangs a rather ominous note from her teenage sister Sam, asking Katie not to try and find out where she’s gone.
From that moment on it’s your job to explore the house and figure out its mysteries.
First and foremost, where has Sam gone? What about Sam and Katie’s parents? How did the Greenbriar’s come into possession of this mansion? Why is uncle Oscar called a “psycho” by the kids at Sam’s school?
Exploration and interaction with the environment are the main focuses behind Gone Home. Hovering over items will show you Katie’s feelings about them, interacting by clicking will pick up objects, turn them on or off or trigger audio explaining their significance.
Comparisons can easily be made between Gone Home and Dear Esther, which was released last year. Although similarities are obvious, Gone Home sets a much nicer scene and gives you an entire house to interact with, rather than a set path to jaunt along.
The house itself is beautifully designed. It’s clear how much time was put into creating all of the art assets for the game and the attention to detail is very impressive. You’ll find refrigerators full of individually packaged food, band posters you might have owned twenty years ago, VHS tapes with "the X Files" scrawled on the side and handwritten cheat sheets for various video games.
Sound is also utilised well throughout, a storm booms outside and the house is often uncomfortably quiet. A strange sense of foreboding and fear comes with this and you’ll often find yourself on edge, expecting something to be following you once you turn around, Amnesia style. Gone Home is very impressive in the fact that it makes the Greenbriar home feel like an actual house, not a series of corridors stuck together for you to ramble your way through.
The family dynamic of Terry, Janice, Katie and Sam is one of the most believable you’ll encounter in modern video games.
The game does a fantastic job of making interesting characters who, by normal video game standards, would be considered boring. You’ll find no war heroes, meth cooks, assassins or Italian plumbers within Gone Home. Instead you’re treated to a fiction author grappling with writer’s block, a struggling marriage, an unruly teenager and an eldest daughter who has been absent for, what seems like, too long.
These characters feel richer for their simple problems. They’re average people, nothing more and nothing less, and it’s this that makes them stand out so much. The family dynamic of Terry, Janice, Katie and Sam is one of the most believable you’ll encounter in modern video games.
For example, Terry, Sam and Katie’s father has copies of his books everywhere. He doesn’t keep them for pride’s sake, though, they sold poorly and were eventually dropped by his publisher. Even when his first book was published, Terry’s greatest moment as an author, his father wrote to him to describe his disappointment that Terry used so much cliché in his work.
It’s strange to feel for a character you never hear or see, but The Fullbright Company have fleshed out their secondary characters well. They show you their actions, motivations, and then leave it up to you to come to your own conclusions. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for their central characters.
The problem many players may have had was with the main plot line involving Sam. Sam’s a typical teenager, and we see her develop through diary extracts Katie picks up around the house. These diary extracts are superbly voice acted and written. They’ll fully sell you the feeling that you’re actually listening in on a teenage girl’s own, private feelings at the time.
The main issue with Sam’s storyline is that it is very predictable. Within the first three or four extracts you’ll be able to guess vaguely where Sam is and why. That, coupled with how interesting other characters are in comparison makes the main point of Gone Home fall flat.
The further you delve into the game the more predictable things will become, gradually grinding down to an unspectacular finale that you should have seen coming from the very beginning. That’s the problem with Gone Home, the setting is intriguing and the story immediately sucks you in, only to fizzle out once it’s asked to develop any further from the start.
None of this is to say Sam’s story is completely unappealing, but it does play out in a very stereotypical manner. You’ll have seen this story a hundred times before, but just maybe not with these characters.
One thing that will really leave a sour taste in your mouth is the price of Gone Home. Currently the game will cost you £15 on Steam, for an experience that will, at very most, last around three hours. For me personally, 90 minutes after double checking there wasn’t anything more to discover.
With other games out there that cost a fraction of the price and will last much, much longer it’s very difficult to justify the pricing of Gone Home. Especially when playing this game feels like such a risk in terms of enjoyment, coughing up £15 almost seems like somewhat of a gamble.
Going home for Xmas
- Well designed house to explore
- Great intrigue to begin with
- Nice voice acting
Go home, you're drunk
- Story quickly fizzles out
- Short. Very short.
- Steep price at the moment
- Poor central characters
Gone Home PC ReviewWith disappointing central characters and secondary characters that could easily steal the show, Gone Home didn’t accomplish what it could have. A story that, if paced better, could have really impressed. However, with a very short run time, a stereotypical and predictable story of teenage behaviour and a steep price, Gone Home isn’t worth investing in at this time.
It does raise some interesting issues, but they can be raised in a much more engaging way. People may disagree, but this is one reviewer who discovered that he isn’t that fond of marmite.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.