*Authors Note* Gone Home is available exclusively for PC. Mild spoilers relating to the narrative will be in this review.
You may not have heard about Gone Home before, the game has a very small target audience within the PC market. The indie scene has exploded in recent years and Gone Home is their poster child for 2013, but how does it hold up? – our review gives you all the details.
You are Kaitlin Greenbriar, returning home from a year-long overseas holiday, and as you return, you arrive to discover that none of your family are there, with a note on the front door from your sister telling you not to go looking into where she has gone. No direction is given to the player here, you have an entire house to explore, and gradually you put together a backstory into Kaitlin’s parents, her sister and Kaitlin herself, their jobs, their social lives, the tension and drama of their lives, as well as the background of the family house and the history behind it. Every scrap of paper, every closet and hidden compartment holds valuable insights into this family that has been through incredible hardships, and where they have all seemingly vanished to. Much to my surprise I found myself with notepad at the ready, jotting down details, waiting for anything that might come up again later on, locker combinations, locations of secret compartments as well as updates on the families activities. Everything is made critically important and every new discovery has an impact on Kaitlin as well as the player.Gone Home plays with your instincts as a gamer, you’re constantly waiting for that science-fiction twist, that monster that jumps out of the shadows, and every time you turn to flick a light switch on you expect to turn back and get startled by someone standing in that previously empty space… but it never happens. This empty house plays tricks with your mind while spins a simple human tale that explores such themes as employment loss, homosexuality and much more. In a game that at first glimpse seems so simplistic, with the most basic of first person navigation being the only gameplay mechanics present, it is the story that elevates the game far beyond the sum of its parts.
It’s rare that I’ve found a game where I’ve felt so intrigued by the narrative, an air of mystery surrounds every room you enter and every piece of information you find. Visually the game is about typical of an indie game, so not a technical marvel, but there is such detail in every room, such depth to the design that this is well and truly a visual feast open for consumption, while the voice work is minimal, yet effective, allowing for the homes contents to speak for itself, and the simple musical score makes itself felt at specific, more critical moments in the tale.Gone Home is not for everyone, those who need their action scenes and high stakes thrills will not find it here, but if you let it in, Gone Home will deliver you close to two hours (so admittedly a bit short) of the finest story-telling we’ve seen in a game, coupled with ingenious design that plays with your mind at every opportunity. There’s never been a game quite like it, as the developers at The Fullbright Company put up yet another extraordinary case of video games as an art form. Gone Home is an incredible package, so just take your time and get caught up in this sad, but incredibly immersive world.