The nostalgic value of a game set in the ’90s can be very high if done right, we had cassette tapes, magazines that we cared about, those big ass TVs, all that nice old stuff that we hold dear to our hearts no matter how far technology goes. Gone Home hits the mark on every single one of those nostalgic values in the most amazing way possible.
Published and developed by The Full Bright Company in 2013 as (If I’m not mistaken) their very first release, Gone Home is more of an interactive story than an actual game (Think Dear Esther with a little more interactivity).
Gone Home has you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, you just came back from your Euro trip to your folks’ new house (or more like a mansion) and you come home to find the place entirely empty, absolutely no one there, not your mom, dad, or your younger sister Sam around who the game’s story revolves.
You enter the house and you start looking around for clues of where everyone is, and you’re slowly introduced to the Greenbriar family and how they came upon this mansion they live in, the clues are mainly in the form of letters, notes, crumbled pieces of paper thrown in the trash, cassette tapes Sam leaves for Kaitlin, almost anything really.
You discover that Terrance Greenbriar (Kaitlin’s dad) is a writer who is having a bit of a rocky time getting his books published, he mainly writes sci fi novels about JFK, and so far he’s published two books until his publisher sent him a letter telling him that they can no longer publish his books due to low sales. You find notes from your mother encouraging your father not to give up, you find your father’s office full of sticky notes and books about JFK and how he’s working on creating more material for another book.
And then you find Sam’s room, and you’re slowly introduced to your younger sister in the form of audio logs that play when you find certain objects of interest. Sam had a childhood friend named Daniel, who mind you, wasn’t actually a friend, but as she described, her automatic friend since he was her neighbor, and he always had all the good Nintendo games, mainly Street Fighter. You start to learn how much Sam is picked on in her new school because she lives in a “psycho” house, until she meets a girl named Lonnie who, as opposed to everyone else, actually wants to see the psycho house. Sam invites her over and they quickly become friends, spending more and more time together. They start discovering new things in the house like hidden panels and secret pathways in the library.
//Mild spoilers ahead
Sam’s and Lonnie’s relationship begins to grow, they start dating each other, secretly at first, after all, the nineties wasn’t the most open minded time, until Sam’s parents sit her down and ask about Lonnie, and she tells them that they’re dating, to her surprise, they didn’t get mad or anything, they were just in denial, they were telling her that maybe she didn’t find the right boy yet, or that it’s just a phase, but Sam knew she and Lonnie loved each other.
//End Mild spoilers
For the sake of not ruining an outstanding narrative, I’ll conclude my description of the plot here.
Not much to say here, Gone Home mainly emphasizes on exploration, you control Kaitlin in a first person perspective. You can pick up anything, turn it around to observe it, and put it back wherever you want.
There are some very mild puzzles as well, mainly in the form of finding the combination for a lock or a safe, or finding hidden panels in the house from your map.
But that’s pretty much the extent of it.
I can’t honestly say the visuals were breathtaking or anything, they were nice, they weren’t awful of course, but they served the purpose of the game perfectly, after all, this game’s objective is not to emphasize on the visual, but rather on the story line. It could have been a little better though to be honest.
Gone Home does not feature an epic soundtrack or anything awe inspiring, mainly minimal piano bits when Sam starts talking, and some punk music from the cassette tapes Sam left Kaitlin lying around. Along with weather sounds, thunder, rain, what have you.
Now this is tricky, the game’s story is very interesting, heck it had me almost crying at the end, but I don’t think I’ll be playing through it again anytime soon, all the audio logs are saved and you can just hear them again, and that is the entire story line, unless you’re interested in Kaitlin’s trip, or Terrance’s books. So no real re-playability value here, and thus I wouldn’t really recommend buying the game at the full $20 price but rather on sale. Also the game is only around 2 hours long.
Gone Home is a very nice interactive narrative that delivers on both an emotional and a nostalgic level (that is if you liked the ’90s), but I wouldn’t heartily recommend it to people trying to get into this genre of games – mind you the game is perfectly nice – I would however divert your attention to Dear Esther instead.