Gone Home is about a young woman, Kaitlin, returning home from college. Her parents and sister, Samantha, moved into a new house, which is deserted by the time Kaitlin gets home. The narrative is told through subtle environmental cues, notes, clippings, and occasionally a voice over from her sister. Essentially the game is about Kaitlin discovering more about Samantha and the hardships she’s endured while she was away. To avoid spoilers, it’s definitely a subject matter untouched by other games and it uses classic pop culture tropes to tease players in the wrong direction.
The objective here is to explore the house. Kaitlin can rifle through boxes, read letters, and even pick up objects like a soda cans to observe. There’s not much in terms of puzzles per say and the game is fairly linear provided everything is uncovered and read in order to trigger Samantha’s next journal entry. Linearity aside, there’s a lot to delve into here if one reads into it, but is not required. It’s an exploratory adventure game that’s short and has no real challenge to it. Gone Home is interesting, but not exactly clever, or fun to play.
The graphics are decent, helped along by the great set design of a 90’s era TV home. There are tube TVs, VHS tapes, a SNES, and more. The house is full of nooks and crannies, hidden messages, and an astute attention to detail, again, thanks to the 90’s homage. There’s not much in terms of acting or music, but what is there is good enough. The game can be beaten in about 2 hours even after exploring everything. It doesn’t offer much in terms of replay value nor does the $20 admission seem like a good value. It’s like an Oscar movie that should be watched for the sake of art, but isn’t necessarily entertaining.
Gone Home was an experience unlike any ether. A unique story told through a novel way gives the game an edge, though actually playing it isn’t enthralling. Should it be played? Perhaps not, but it should be at least watched. And if a Steam sale drops the price to about $5 then yes, grab it to support the developer, The Fullbright Company.
Score: 3/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on January 13, 2014 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.