Every house has stories but how does it tell them? Gone Home is a wonderfully crafted, intimate game of discovery all confined within one house. It’s not a traditional video game by any sorts but then it doesn’t need to be, and while the journey is short it’s one worth experiencing.
– This review is based on the PS4 version
Opening the door
After a brief title intro, which is accompanied by a short answerphone message from our protagonist, Katie, we are transported to the front door of the Greenbriar family home. Naturally the front door is locked and after finding a key hidden under an ornament we enter the creeky, wooden house.
In these early stages, the atmosphere of Gone Home is immediately apparent and begins to immerse you into the setting, with the rain battering against the windows and the occasional crack of thunder, we (the player) get a rapid sense of loneliness one tinted with a degree of eeriness. Upon entering through the front door the main hall lights stutter and flicker on revealing the prominent, wooden staircase and hall itself. From here the house is yours to explore although certain areas remained locked until you “progress” (although you can actually finish the game within one minute).
The house is seemingly deserted and there seems to be no logical reason as to why no one is home. Here lies Gone Homes first great mystery, and it propels us to explore our surroundings and find out why no is home.
Gone Home essentially revolves around particular, that of Katies sister Sam, developers Fullbright have cleverly introduced several other sub-stories for players to immerse themselves in, and they all help to grow our impressions and thoughts of the story as a whole and of the people involved and they also help bring life to this currently deserted house.
I won’t spoil specific story details or plots as essentially they are crucial to your enjoyment of the game, in fact they essentially are the game. The progressive story is the main attraction here not unrelenting action; the only actions you will be doing are walking and interacting with the many objects placed around the house. And while initially it may seem there is not much happening, this only goes to further our intrigue as we don’t know what to expect.
While it could be argued the stories present are a little cliched, to me they feel personal and realistic. I’ve seen some people criticise the main story thread and it’s ending but for me, I became absorbed in Sam’s coming of age story and in turn it led me into a whirlwind of emotions and sometimes disturbing predictions. The setting lends itself fantastically to this exploration of personal imagination. At times I would be sniggering at discovering a gentlemans magazine or sympathising with Sam, and at other moments I felt claustrophobic whilst navigating some of the secret passages as well as feeling fear as to what I might discover, with notes occasionally suggesting something more sinister. Gone Home can be an emotional rollercoaster and it does a great job of evoking many feelings throughout.
Everything tells a story
As you learn more about Katie’s family through a series of notes, postcards, letters, etc you begin to form a greater understanding of the family. Each little piece of information adds to the pictures and thoughts culminating in your head. The varied number of objects littered around the house also help add weight to the stories being told, whether it be the number of empty whisky bottles in your (Katies) Dad’s study or the number of Sam’s grungy, rock music cassettes dotted around the house, which can be played on cassette players, they all help develop stories as well as create potential new ones in your head. Gone Home cleverly feeds us bits of information at a time that are almost perfectly weighted; not being thoroughly conclusive or detailed to tell you everything at once but also providing us with just enough details for the story to flow and develop naturally as well as allowing us to conjure up our own feelings, emotion and thoughts.
It’s the in between moments, the moments between finding the next letter or note, where Gone Home truly shines for me. These moments open themselves up for us, the player, to indulge our imaginations, allowing us to immerse ourselves in the evolving stories, making us think and try to predict what will happen next, making us start to understand and visualise the people represented through these pieces of narrative and objects present. Those with active imaginations I’m sure will enjoy Gone Home.
There is very little negative I can really say about Gone Home. Visually the game is nothing outstanding but that really does not matter as the story is engrossing and nothing graphics wise detracted me from the experience. One slight criticism I have of Gone Home is the repetitive use of some objects. These can occasionally threaten to break the illusion that you are playing a game and not actually there but such instances are soon forgotten. It could be argued that there isn’t much replay value to Gone Home, especially if your first play-through is a thorough one. Gone Home is a very conclusive experience; once you have played it you will most have likely have seen everything, although there are a few trophies/achievements which serve as a little incentives to revisit the Greenbriar’s residence, especially for the completionists out there.
How much you will enjoy Gone Home depends on your own imagination and ability to be immersed into a story, a story which is drip fed to you but with ample room for you to read between the lines and develop your own thoughts and emotions. At the end of my two hour play through I had become engrossed into the stories and the house itself, even occasional moments of tedium did not break my immersion from the Greenbriar’s house.
- Personal and intimate experience
- Clever storytelling
- Immersive experience
- Well detailed and atmospheric setting
- Occasionally repetitive
Review Score: 9/10
Have you played Gone Home if so what did you think? Did you enjoy the story or did you find the whole experience unrewarding? Let me know in the comments section below. Until next time have fun and play games.