Gone Home is Fullbright’s first-person, interactive story adventure game and Polygon’s Game of the Year for 2013. The game also won the 2013 BAFTA Video Game Award for best “Debut Game” and was nominated for “Best Story”. Like so many of my other gaming experiences, I picked up Gone Home on a Steam sale and dove right in.
Once you start playing, thrown back to 1995 investigating your parents ominous Portland mansion, you can’t stop.
TL;DR spoiler free summary:
Awesome narrative arc and totally creepy atmosphere, Gone Home is great for a short gaming experience. Overall, the end is a bit underwhelming and there is not a lot of variety in game play. This game is for people who want to throw themselves into a small, family mystery and get caught up in character, without having to do too much decision making. There’s not a lot of action but the story is worth it.
From here on, spoilers. Ye be warned, fellow travellers.
So, I fire the game up, I’m at home, by myself, and then I’m walking into this creepy mansion looking for my family. Gone Home is set in Portland, Oregon, which isn’t that far from Vancouver. It’s raining in the game and it’s raining outside my window. The sun is setting here IRL and I’m playing as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a young woman returning home after her trip to Europe.
It’s dark outside, and thundering, so I leave every motherfucking light on while I investigate the creepy, empty house.
As you wander through the rooms, you pick up clues about your parent’s struggling marriage, your mom’s new job in forestry (and her sexy mountain man co-worker), and your dad’s publication rejections.
Basically, since you left home to be a selfish asshole and gallivant about the old world, everyone’s lives have fallen apart. They moved into a house that might be haunted. You sister, Samantha, leaves you messages through her diary and maps to secret areas of the house. She found out that the guy who used to own the house was up to seriously suspicious biz.
You know that spine tingling feeling you get when you’re alone in a basement, and then you turn the light off to go back upstairs, but for a brief second you’re in the dark, by yourself, and then you’re so scared that you have to run up the stairs to get into the light before the unholy blackness takes you forever? This game is like that FOR HOURS.
Luckily, the game lightens the mood with nostalgic retro awesomeness. Video game cartridges and old tapes are all over the place. And your sister’s life has gotten complicated while you were gone. She’s been doing like teenagers do. Confusion. Music. Friends… SEX!
This is where Gone Home really differentiates itself from any game I’ve ever played. Your sister shares her most intimate thoughts in her journal. As you explore the game, you realize that her feelings about her new friend have grown into a deep connection. She’s fallen in love. With another girl.
Good job, game! That’s awesome. While the haunted house aspect of the game winds down, a really interesting and personal arc for you sister blossoms into the real mystery of the game. Where is your sister and why did she leave? It turns out, Samantha has run off to be with her girlfriend. You learn that your parents are away at a retreat working on their marriage. There is nothing supernatural or deadly going on. There is no real danger. Everyone’s fine and all that terror you felt as the player was really just your own imagination.
Honestly, it was kind of a let down for me. No ghosts at all? I feel like the kid in Boyhood when he asked his dad if there’s any magic in the world. Nope. There is not. Damn.
Well, the story was really good. Really good.
I hope you play this game.
– Roz Y.