I acquired Gone Home through a Humble Bundle. It was not the game I was aiming for when I purchased said bundle, but it was a game I had read good things about. I knew what to expect to some degree, hearing that it’s “not a game” in the traditional sense, but more a visual narrative. With many a TellTale title under my belt, I have come to enjoy this type of game. However, Gone Home is more “walking simulator” or point-and-click adventure, and the narrative is flimsy at best. Potential spoilers are ahead.
In Gone Home, you play the eldest sister of a two child nuclear family. Dad is a failed writer who now reviews consumer electronics, and Mom works for the local forestry department. Your younger sister is in high school still, and her coming of age tale is woven through journal entries scattered about the house. You have just been abroad for a year, a post high school trip taken before life truly begins. As the game opens, you have just left a message on the answering machine at your home, and are catching a late flight back to the States. Upon your arrival, you find that the house is mysteriously empty.
The reasons for the house being empty are revealed as you explore the house. You can move around freely, provided doors aren’t locked, and this leads you to a point and click adventure through the mansion that your family moved into while you were away. It’s amazing to me that this family has lived in the house for a year, yet the house looks un-lived-in. There are still many packed boxes, trash about the house, and objects that are important to driving the story are mixed in with other junk. You can open drawers and doors, find hidden passages and keys to open other doors that are locked, combinations to other locked objects, and listen to tapes strewn about (though always conveniently located next to a tape player).
The overall narrative is from the point of view of your sister. She leaves journal entries for you, locked inside the attic that you presumably read once you find it. Still, little bits and pieces of notes or other noteworthy items will cue up voice-overs which are your sister reading the journal entries aloud. If you suspend your disbelief, it’s as if she attached these notes to bits of her life that occurred while you were away. However, it’s all actually tied up in the journal that awaits you at the end of the game. Other bits of information turn up as you explore, from the owner of the house actually being your uncle, who was called a “psycho” and the house is called the “psycho house,” though it’s never really explained why. Your sister gets caught up with poltergeists, hauntings and ghost hunting, but none of this serves a purpose except to give you an idea of the kind of person she is. Despite the game taking place in an empty mansion during a raging storm, and creepy sounds coming from all around you, that’s the end of the scare factor, and that was severely disappointing. I wanted to know more about the psycho. I wanted to see something spooky. It didn’t happen.
Within a few minutes it was obvious that your sister was discovering (or finally admitting) that she is a lesbian, or at least attracted to women. Before you jump to conclusions, no, I don’t have a problem with homosexuality in games. This isn’t about that. The problem with it is that it was predictable, and every time the developers tried to distract you from their “love story” with supernatural tidbits or the psycho spin — or that Dad is probably an alcoholic and Mom is cheating on him with Ranger Rick — they come back around to the story about lesbians. If they wanted this game to be a love story, make it a love story. If it’s supposed to be about a psycho uncle or the supernatural, give us that. Don’t tease me with a good time and then say “just kidding, this is a lesbian love story.”
That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy what was offered. It’s a fair game with a lot of interesting stuff in it. It does peek back into the 90’s very well, and that nostalgia is probably what I liked the most. It also takes a typical family, even with all its dysfunction, and gives you an honest look into their lives. I really do appreciate what the game was trying to accomplish, and I applaud the dev’s ability to stray from the norm. However, appreciation doesn’t always equal approval, and in this case, I don’t approve. Especially with a $20 price point, and a completion time of just over an hour. Thankfully, I didn’t pay nearly that much for it.
I saw a review on Steam that I just had to share:
Should I buy this game?
A handy, dandy flowchart
1) Are you a nineties kid?
Yes – Go to 2
No – Go to 5
2) Are you female?
Yes – Go to 3
No – Go to 5
3) Are you a lesbian?
Yes – Go to 4
No – Go to 5
4) Do you like having fun?
Yes – Go to 5
No – Go to 5
It’s not a fair review, but it made me laugh. Here’s my breakdown:
Graphics, Sound, Production – hits the sweet spot
Gameplay – smooth
90’s nostalgia – spot on
Story – we could tell Sam was a lesbian from the start. Why didn’t they delve into why the uncle was a psycho? Something supernatural would have been nice too. Oh, and Mom is totally cheating with Rick.
Verdict – overall a meh experience. not worth $20. Glad I got it for next to nothing. I can appreciate the way it strives to do something different, and I’m cool with the lesbian bit, just don’t see why it was made when it really doesn’t accomplish anything.
I give Gone Home 2 out of 5 Corals.
#gonehome #review #walkingsimulator #coral