Friday, November 8, 2013

Full Review: Gone Home (PC)

Gone Home is an story-based exploration game developed by The Fullbright Company based out of Portland, Oregon .  The story is set in a town/suburb near Portland (not that that matters, but it does pseudo-explain why it's raining the entire time when the game takes place in June) and takes place in 1995.  I feel that's all I can tell you without giving anything away.  I knew practically nothing about the game before going into it, aside from all that stuff about the game being developed using the HPL Engine and was planned as an Amnesia mod.  That along gives certain expectations as the Amnesia is a POV survival horror series.

If you do not want to know any spoilers about the game do not read further as I will be talking about certain aspects of the game which may very well contain spoilers.  So before I get down to it, I highly recommend playing the game before reading any further, unless of course you have no plans to play/experience this game.


The story in Gone Home takes place in 1995 and I feel half of the game is reminiscing on that very fact.  While playing Conklederp asked me if the setting and amount of detail in the game for 1995 made me miss that time (I was 15 in 1995) and I said that while I didn't necessarily "miss it," seeing 1995 portrayed as Fullbright was showing us, it made me happy.

Samantha is the main character, whom we find out about through diary entries, notes between her and other students at the new school she is attending and teacher notes home.  All of the diary entries are read to the player by Sam, voiced by Sarah Grayson.  There is so much emotion and genuineness in her voice throughout the entire game that I cannot watch trailers or videos of the game with her voiceover and not have some kind of an emotional response.

The POV is through her older sister Katilin/Katie who has just returned from a year long trip around Europe, presumably shortly after graduation and she comes home to an empty house (that her family has moved to since she left for Europe, hence you the player not recognizing the "family home").  

The library we all wish we had growing up.
While exploring the house, you start finding items/notes/documents detailing your family's past, again presumably that the character of Katie may not have known, such as your father's failed book career from the 70's; his book career doesn't seem to be the hidden fact, only the fact that neither of his two books sold very well.  Or information that the house that the family moved into belonged to your pseudo-estranged uncle and was willed to your father after the uncle's death.  There are also hints that there's something wrong with the house, which you discover through diary entries from Sam and crumpled up notes found in trashcans.

When the game starts, you have access to both the bottom floor (with one door being locked) and the second floor.  Being who I am, I explored the ground floor first although I could have begun on the second floor, potentially "ruining (??)" the flow of the story.  Ah the story.  By starting on the ground floor, the story of your family begins in the 1970s with notes about your father's failed authoring career and how he lapses into alcoholism and an unfulfilling job of writing music equipment reviews.  You're then plunged into 1994, shortly after your family first moves into the new house and waves of nostalgia from the mid '90s flood your senses.
This, seriously, was what my Fridays looked like for most of the mid '90s.
There is so much that I can and want to say about Gone Home, but 1) There isn't enough "time" to give a play-by-play synopsis of everything that happened, and 2) The game is best experienced.  It really is like a 3 hour interactive movie of sorts, without any cut scenes.  There are no monsters to run away from, no jump scares or scare chords and only a few instances where you take a cassette and put it in a tape deck. You don't have to, but why wouldn't you?  The entire game is spent going from room-to-room, picking up slips of paper, receipts, notes from school, notebook entries, reading them and forming a picture about what has been happening with your family while you have been away.

Believe me when I say that you really feel like you know the family even before the game is over.  At one point, I turned to Conklederp and said something along the lines of "Jan [the mother] wouldn't do that, she's not like that at all. . ." and then realized I was talking about a person I had only read about for the last two hours.  I was very much emotionally invested in these people after only two hours.

Near the end of the game, I had this enormous pit in my stomach about how the game would end.  I didn't want what I thought what was going to happen, to happen.  I was emotionally afraid to find out "what happened."  I had been with this family for nearly three hours, seeing a family nearly torn apart by varying forces and start to bring itself back together and if what I feared were to have happened, I have no shame in saying that I think I might've lost it.

Instead, the "climax" happened and I had this immense wave of happiness, joy and relief wash over me.  I can't even compare what it would be like as I know that any analogy I used would include something about how the game actually ended and I would at least like to keep that partly a surprise.

The only way I know how to end this post, is that Gone Home is a beautifully composed experience wrapped inside of a video game.



  1. Was Conklederp there for most of the game? Did you guys play/watch together?

  2. Yes she was there, although she was starting to fall asleep during the last half hour. Although, in her defense, I did start playing at around 11pm.