By William Shelton
Release Date: January 12. 2016 (Console Edition)
Systems: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: The Fullbright Company, Midnight City
Publisher: The Fullbright Company, Majesco Entertainment
Obtained By: Free With PS+
This is a game i’ve wanted to play for quite a while now, and after the awful events this past Sunday it just felt right to do a review for a game that involved LGBT issues. More importantly I wanted to do something that didn’t treat that community like a tragedy waiting to happen, and that is what Gone Home does so very well.
Gone Home is one of those much maligned“walking simulators”, but it’s proof that the genres does in fact have something to offer. While most games of this elk make the mistake of having the story the player is passively witnessing be more interesting that the story they are taking part in, Gone Home ties both of those experiences together. While the story of your in game sister coming to grips with her sexuality is the main story, the way the player has to piece that story together, along with the initial impressions of the house, gives weight to the actual moment to moment game play. The game starts out almost like a horror game: the lights are all off, there are boxes everywhere as if someone was forced out against their will or left in a hurry and the sound design invokes memories of Silent Hill as it implies something terrible is hiding just off screen. Because of all that, along with the foreknowledge that the residents of the house are meant to be the player characters family, I wanted to know what happened, and the need to investigate is what drove me on. In a way this is a detective game. You’re given too much information outright for that to be totally accurate, but I was in the same mental space here as I was when playing LA Noir.
The main gameplay involves searching through the house and looking for clues as to where your family is, often having to solve minor puzzles in order to obtain them. After each clue you are treated to a snipits from the sisters journal that slowly shine a light on the events leading up to your arrival. Again this made the game feel more like an investigation game more than a “walking sim” and that’s why it works so well. I found my self invested in the story being told and in my presence in that stories after math. For comparisons sake, look at “Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture”. There is no reason in that game for the player to be there. Gone Home on the other hand proves that limited interactivity can still be engaging if done right.
The house layout also deserves a special mention. The house is large and filled with secrets, but it feels like a real house. As I made my way through the darkened house, I found everything was pretty much where I thought it should be. I never had to spend much time looking for the lights in each room as I could almost tell instinctively where they would be. That became something of a godsend as more of the house opened up, as I knew where I was just by weithor or not the lights are on (something the developers expected and even made a jab at in one of the in game notes). But more important that they lay out is the design of each room. There was so much personality in every room that I almost think this was molded off so one of the developers real homes growing up. With how much The Fullbright Company were relying on the environment to help tell their story any mistake in how the house was crafted could have made the entire enterprise fall to pieces, but they nailed every aspect. I can almost guarantee you that you’ll be able to tell who occupied each room from screen shots alone. That’s something few games can claim.
The game also has one of the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard. Sarah Grayson who voiced Sam (the sister) delivers each line flawlessly and adds the perfect amount of emotional weight to all the characters dialog. You feel her initial confusion as new feelings start to grow, you feel her pain when those who matter to her think this is just a phase she’ll grow out of and the pain that comes with letting someone you love go so they can achieve their dreams and the joy of a happy ending. I don’t know if this woman has done anymore voice work but I sure as hell hope she has, as just listening to her was the best part of Gone Home. The soundtrack is also pretty great as it’s mostly made up of Riot Grrl Punk (most of which I think come from real bands). Not only does it just fit the tone and the story, but it kicks a lot of ass.
Gone Home wont be for everyone, I know that. But it sure as hell was for meant for me and I think everyone should at least give it the chance to be for them. I beat the game in under an hour and I can tell you in all honesty I’d happily pay the $20 for it. My one and only complaint is that I wish the character moved a little faster, but after that I loved this game. If you have PS+ and haven’t played it, it’s free this month so give it a chance. All you have to lose is two hours at most, I think that’s more than worth the asking price. The ending of the game, which I already said doesn’t treat the LGBT community like a predestine tragedy so you know it’s not sad, almost had me in tears I was so happy to know everything worked out for all those involved.