Gone Home goes against the mainstream view of what a video game is. There are no enemies, no large open world, and no violence. In their place is an empty house. A house that should be full of life. A house that was supposed to be a fresh start for the Greenbriar family of four. A house that holds many secrets.
The time is 1995, and as someone who grew up in the 90\’s they hit the nail on the head. VHS tapes, Super Nintendo, and Street Fighter are all the rage along with bands like The Misfits. You play the role of Katie, the eldest daughter, who returns home at night in the midst of a torrential downpour after a year abroad in Europe to a house that\’s primarily empty. For unknown reasons her family isn\’t around and its up to you to uncover the events of what happened. There are a few plot threads to unravel here but the primary one of younger sister Sam and her seemingly random disappearance. She\’s only seventeen and should have been at home to greet you, so what the hell happened to her? And where are your parents?
If I go on about the story any more I’ll ruin it and I refuse to do that, so I’ll go over other things like the tone and environment. The first thing you encounter is a cryptic note attached to the front door by your sister, Sam, desperately asking you not to dig around the house and they the two of you will meet again one day. Not really a joyous start. Upon entering the house I immediately felt alone. The main light in the foyer began to flicker in that cliché horror way and doors were open or locked, TVs were left on, and boxes were strewn about throughout the house. It’s obvious something happened here. Now it’s time to explore every nook and cranny of every single room. You’ll discover many things about both Sam and your parents along the way and a little about Katie who, for the most part, is a faceless character. Sam is the star of the show and I found her mostly relatable. She’s a typical teen who loves things like playing video games with her friends, going to shows, and getting lost in science fiction. She’s at that age where she still clings to childlike things like the stuffed animal on her bed while also trying to discover who she really is. Ah, self discovery.
As you make your way from room to room reading Sam’s journal entries and putting the pieces together you’ll also learn uncover some secrets your family is harboring. You’ll read all about their doubts, ambitions, failures, and the vices they use to cope with them. Your father, for example, is a failed author who turned to reviewing Hi-Fi stereo systems to bring in money after multiple conspiracy books failed to catch on. Not everything you find is relevant to the story, however, and sometimes when you place your rectile over an object Katie\’s thought on that item is displayed. One memorable example was when I was rummaging through a box of her father\’s books (there are a lot) and I uncovered a smut collection with her text reading \”gosh dad\”. Some things are just better left to the unknown when it comes to family.
The team at Fullbright have done a hell of a job for their first game. The gameplay is fluid and while the graphics might not be breathtaking, the voice acting and ambient sound effects are top notch and Sarah Grayson really brings the character of Sam to life with a truly commendable performance. The writing is witty and relatable to anyone who has siblings. The only drawbacks I see other people having may be with the length and price. At around three hours the twenty dollar price tag may turn some away, especially with no real incentive to play through the story again. Sure there’s a gold and silver trophy for beating the game under ten minutes and under one, but I have no motivation for doing so. Even still, the story and game is fantastic and worth checking out in my book.