Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Inexplicable Video Game Review: Gone Home, a good non-game game for gamers

Warning: Light spoilers follow for Gone Home. While I’m not talking about the specific plot elements of the game, if you want to go in completely clean, you might not want to read this. (And if you are going in clean and want to know my general opinion, it would be – Hey, play the game! It’s short and interesting, although definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.)

Gone Home is an odd game, and not just because it barely qualifies as a video game. Rather, I consider it especially odd because the content of the game would appeal most to casual and non-gamers, but the gameplay itself and the conventions it uses are meant to evoke the usual responses from normal gamers. 

Gone Home is set in 1995, and you play as 21-year-old Kaitlin Greenbriar as she returns to her new family home in Oregon from an overseas vacation. It’s a dark and stormy night, and on the front door is a note from your little sister, warning you not to investigate what’s happened inside. From there though, the game twists with its plot, and surprises you with the narrative, despite lots of weird, creaking noises and light bulbs that mysteriously go out without warning.

There isn’t much “game” to Gone Home, which probably drives some of the more aggressive gamer folks nutty. In the game, you wander around the house and try to solve the mystery of where your sister and parents have gone, by interacting with objects and finding portions of your sister’s journal. You can’t really lose or die, and the puzzles are fairly simple to solve, as opposed to some of the stumpers in Myst.

Speaking of – Gone Home’s closest mate is something like Myst, which was similarly low intensity, but Gone Home contrasts vividly even from that because it’s a strictly modern and plausible game. The tone throughout is a bit eerie, like Myst can be at times, but more consistent throughout. It’s not quite as creepy as a graphical adventure like Shadowgate or The Uninvited.

I can understand why there is some criticism of Gone Home, between it not really being much of a game and its price tag at release, which was around $30. (Even now, a physical copy is $30.) Its available on Steam right now for $20. I’d consider it worth more $5 to $10, so pounce on it at that price. (My copy was “free,” since it was the freebie game on Playstation Plus in June.)

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