Note: I re-reviewed this game in 2016. Please disregard this original review.
Gone Home was something intriguing from the moment I noticed nines and tens being awarded by numerous critics, but the consumer backlash being more or less the opposite. Throw in the claim that the four developers were pretty darn involved in my favorite Bioshock game, Minerva’s Den, and it is not surprising I decided to pick this game up for $10. Also am doing it as a Halloween bound review, as Anna was just too crap to bother getting past the first hour.
Gone Home Review
Release Date: 15/8/2013
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux
Developer: The Fullbright Company
Publisher: The Fullbright Company
Rig: AMD FX-8320, 8GB of RAM, Radeon HD 7770, Windows 7 64-bit, Xbox 360 controller
Gone Home’s story is very distinct from the cavalcade of titles on the market, not focusing on much of an otherworldly or massive conflict, and rather telling the story of a young woman returning home after going around Europe for a year. Well, that’s not necessarily true, as the antics of the main character are not very crucial to the real story behind the game, which is detailed through a series of audio logs that can be triggered by grabbing, say, a key. Which describes the past ten months in the life of the main character’s sister and her lesbian lover who sent her down the teenage spiral of adolescence during her final year of high school.
Now, if I happened to be a film or literary critic, I would very quickly dismiss a story such as this for being rather cliche, simplistic, lacking of new aunce, and being very much like something from two decades ago. With the ultimate conclusion of events leaving the story in a far worse spot than the flimsy one it began with, as the game more or less stops its story at what I originally thought to be the first segment. Leaving the story of Lesbian rockers who dressed like pirates at a point ten to fifteen minutes before Gone Home’s hypothetical film equivalent’s conclusion, and a handful of other plot threads tied along with it unresolved.
Throughout the linear, in the same sense that the digestive system is linear, narrative, I came across a subplot regarding the father of the main character. Particularly his struggles as an author who published two thrillers back in the sixties, only to be canned by the publisher and later have the series revived by a new one. Unfortunately, aside from knowing that he is back to writing a new story, opposed to half page long reviews of laserdisc players, nothing comes of this. Same with the mention of a man named Oscar, who I never digged too deeply into, but apparently the sister tried calling his ghost from the dead for some reason.
It is entirely possible that I just did not find every bit of story placed inside of the meticulously crafted and rather cluttered house that must be explored to find every bit and piece of the story. Relying on the player’s ability to sift through a dark, as in it is hard to see much, recreation of a mid-nineteen-nineties mansion that was occupied by a teenage girl and her parents. Which is very detailed, as you are able to pick up fake Super Nintendo games and look through VCR recorded libraries of films underneath their big fat CRTs, which oddly lack any accessory parts, as the VCRs had apparently been stolen by spooky scary Skelemen.
It’s actually rather impressive how much detail went to the soda cans, and making rooms feel like actual rooms that somebody would live in. Not that I would say it looks particularly grand, as Unity is far from the best engine for making visually impressive 3D games, but considering the small team size, it looks rather admirable. At least in terms of visuals, as the manner that the story is told through exploration causes the same angry anxiety that made me dislike certain aspects of Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, and Sonic Colors. Though not in the same way, mostly because I just know that I could search the entire house six times and still not know every bit of it.
And when the story is tied to such a wonky mechanic, I must question how I am expected to play the game. Since it would be ludicrous to expect the players to look through everything you crafted in order to achieve what can very loosely be considered a goal. Especially when I feel as if whatever the game has to offer could be expressed just by watching it, as opposed to playing it. As the narrative the game is building is up to the player to find in a big old 3D hidden object game, and there is not much intrigue to it, aside from how that particular brand of story is unique to the medium of video games. Something that deserves a few points for trying, but far from the high praises I’ve seen elsewhere.
Gone Home is probably my least proud purchase made in quite a long while, and I just bought Phantasmagoria 2. Its attempts at doing something innovative or interesting are admirable, but it arguably undermines the medium it is trying to elevate it to a point that had been mined out by other mediums. While it’s most game like aspect of it derails from the story, which the game places as the primary focus. I have a reflex to be kind towards indie games as they are labors of love But a misdirected one that charges more than the standard asking price, and gives far less than what one would expect from half of it? It’s amounts to a product that I cannot recommend, and another instance where I scoff at what someone points out as art as being somebody’s pallette. Also, I had to mess with file names for the blasted thing to run, and expected Transgenderism to be part of the game.
Barely any good in the product, often just being stupid, boring, or unbearably uninvolving. Might have some neat bits to learn from, but the title is rarely worth your time beyond that.