Title: Gone Home
Tested On: PlayStation 4
Available On: PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Exploration, Mystery
Official Site: http://www.gonehomegame.com
Release Date: August 15, 2013
Where To Buy: Steam, PSN, Xbox Marketplace
Gone Home has much appeal, an immense amount of fan-love and positive reviews supporting it as a title you don’t want to miss. After reading so many acclaimed reviews from other writers, I was eager to jump in to unravel the mystery of the Greenbriar house for myself. However, my experience does not quite follow the trend of “amazing” and “wonderful” experiences proclaimed by others. I did enjoy the title and I was enthralled for much of the game’s captivating story and characters; but as I was about to chalk the game up to an amazing title, the ending of the game takes a disappointing turn. The game does have strengths – and lots of them, however, this does not mean I am willing to disregard some of the problems I have with the title.
I want to discuss early the type of game this is because, with any game genre, there are certain expectations and criteria that we expect to be followed (or at least attempted) when creating a specific game. Much like movies, our expectations going into a film will greatly determine our final verdict at the end of the film. Gaming is not so different in this aspect, leaving Fullbright’s marketing team to set the stage for Gone Home. The atmosphere is well set and advertised as an exploration mystery game. With that in mind I played Gone Home with similar expectations I would have playing any other exploration title. Some of those expectations I have are a compelling story, convincing characters, great voice acting and level design. For 90% of the game, I feel Gone Home had all of these things in abundance. Allow me to explain.
The game begins on June 7, 1995, with 21-year-old Kaitlin Greenbriar returning home from her solo Europe trip. I thought it was exciting that the game begins with a single voicemail call from Katie to her mother before we walk through the front door of the house. From the very beginning, the games music and sound sets an ominous and creepy theme. We are all alone, seeing the new house for the first time our family just moved into. It is 1:30 in the morning and a persistent lightning storm continues outside throughout the duration of the game. All of these aspects lead me to believe that this will have some jumps, scares, and potentially turn into horror. We are left completely to figure out why the house is empty and our first clue is a letter form our younger rebellious sister, Sam, who informs us she has run away from home and does not want anyone looking for her. I enjoyed that as more clues were discovered, audio diaries are read aloud to us elaborating much on Katie and even more so her missing litter sister Sam. All character development is done through the audio diaries and I admit they are quite good. Not only are they compelling and deliver and story that made me want to know more, but the voice acting is incredibly professional and well recorded.
As I discovered more clues as to the whereabouts of Sam, I uncovered and even more intriguing part of the story. I discover that everyone in the area calls this house the “Psycho House” and that it was previously owned by a mysterious Uncle Oscar. The story and clues in Gone Home have an amazing build of a story, which left me eager and anxious to discover more about who Uncle Oscar was and why he died and left the Greenbriar family this house. As I sat on the edge of my seat, looking through hidden corridors in the Greenbriar house, the games wonderful mystery and story comes to a screeching halt. What I felt could have been one of the best mystery games I had played, fizzled out to a mere public service announcement about family disputes. After the ending, the one compelling story felt awfully civilian and petty. The controls are responsive and minimal. Gone Home also displayed no visual or audio bugging which is impressive since indie titles do so often.
Beyond the story and its mundane ending, there are also come problems with the games mystery element. Games that require finding clues should be complex, challenging, and require time to figure out. But Gone Home is painfully linear, leading you to every clue required to progress further and even revealing where all of the hidden passageways are after a single map update. I do understand the reasoning behind doing this if the developer wanted us to exclusively focus on the compelling story. And it worked, which is why everything but the ending is so great. To me ending of Gone Home nullifies the title’s strengths and boils it down to a game we were glad only cost $19.99. Gone Home could have been something greater. For may people it was, and in no way should this deter you from finding out for yourself. Its captivating enough to find out and play. Hopefully, your verdict will be more positive that mine.
- Gameplay: First Person Explorer
- Graphics: Simple But Good Modeling And Architecture
- Sound: Mostly Silent with Compelling Dialog And Ambient Music
- Presentation: Minimal Controls with No Glitching or Bugs
- Strong Character Development
- Scary Setting
- Voice Acting
- Linear Clues and Exploration
- Disappointing Ending