“You know that feeling where the first moment you see someone, it’s like they have a big gold star around them, and you have to get to know them?”
– Samantha Greenbriar, Gone Home
Okay, so I know it has been a while since I posted a game review, but the reason why I posted this was not because of “I should do a game review” (since I am a person who does things I like when I like without forcing myself to), but because I had to play games to analyze its narrative for a college course (which I would be more than glad to, of course!). So, I decided to try “Gone Home” by The Fullbright Company out, and it was not what I had expected.
It was way, way better.
To start off, in “Gone Home”, you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a woman who has just returned home to Oregon after spending a year in Europe. It is raining, and you are greeted by a note from your sister, Samantha, on the front-door, saying that you should not investigate where she had gone. When you open the door and go inside the house, no one is home.
“Gone Home” is a game where the only thing you do is to explore and read, a lot. You see, the game does not have any form of monstrous creatures to attack you nor ghostly apparitions to scare you. It’s just you, the rainy weather, the occasionally-flickering lights, and lots of notes and letters. Sounds boring? it might sound that way, but no, it is not boring at all!
In the game, your task is to explore and read various texts and documents scattered across the huge house and piece the events together to find out what had happened to your family members, which are your parents and your sister. Now, what makes this game interesting is its atmosphere; the house seems utterly quiet, and the rain keeps on pouring, yet in this situation, you would have to turn on the lights, and explore every corner of the house (with occasional creaking sounds from nowhere) to solve the mystery surrounding it. Seems simple enough, but trust me, when you play this game, the atmosphere will change.
The game’s selling point is most likely its storytelling. Let’s talk about the story first. “Gone Home” offers a family drama, involving relationships, careers, and even death. Moreover, those conflicts are not superficially presented; they are deep, realistic, even controversial in our society. The thing that makes it even better is how relatable and emotionally engaging they are; we can picture the situations during the conflict, the scenes can play themselves inside our mind when the only thing we do in the game is reading letters. Now this is when the power of words are strong; they can conjure up images inside your head when they are appropriately presented, and the game does just that.
Now, how does the game present this deep narrative? as I have mentioned you read letters and notes and look at pictures, pretty much everything in the house has details that you can dig further for developing the story. You can see your (Kaitlin) mother’s ID card attached on her working uniform in the closet, movie tickets on the floor, letters from your family’s friends, notes on the refrigerator, basically all the normal stuff. It is precisely because they are all so normal, they are so believable! 🙂 . Not to mention that they are somehow realistically placed and scattered about, so you wouldn’t find documents in inappropriate locations (unlike most games nowadays).
As the cherry on top, tiny things in the form of objects make the game all the more immersive; you can see a skull complete with the Mexican words on the back, and later during the game, you will find out that the skull is actually a souvenir from your little sister’s friend; there are cassette tapes that her friend gave her, and you can listen to them; there are books your father previously wrote since he works as a writer, and many more details. The game doesn’t just present you with a compelling story, but it supports that story with various realistic details to make it all the move enjoyable.
In the end, “Gone Home” is one amazing game. I expected it to be a typical game unable to leave any deep impression on me, but after playing it, I don’t think I can ever forget this game completely. Go try it out! If you like books, there are plenty of texts, and the game has very little puzzle-element, so you won’t have to overthink 😀
I have to say that “Gone Home” deserves all of its awards, and it would be a shame if this were to be the only game with such a unique, deep manner of storytelling (I know a few games like this, so I’ll try them out in the future 🙂 ).
Rating from me: 4/5