The lights are on
Not all experiences need to be long and drawn out to leave a mark. Some are meant to be digested in one sitting. Gone Home may be short in length, but that doesn't take away from the wonderment you feel as you search a house and try to piece together what's going on. Few games let your desire and curiosity to unravel a story take center stage, and Gone Home is a great game to get lost in for a few hours.
You may only spend a short span of time getting to know a family, but you end the game feeling like you know these complex characters – something that most games fail at with hours upon hours of dialogue and narrative. Gone Home is unique for how it lets objects tell a family's story. You come home one night to a letter from your sister and must figure out what's gone on with your family while you've been studying abroad – including finding your sister's whereabouts.
Throughout this journey, you're seeing your sister in a new light as she explores her first romantic relationship and also discover your parents' marriage is starting to hit roadbumps. Each member of the family has their own corner of the house. The dad's office showcases his struggles as a writer, with empty pizza boxes, unsold books, and Post-it notes describing his growing frustration. The game is set in the '90s and your sister's room reflects that, with posters of the decade's heartthrobs, a Lisa Frank binder, and SNES games cluttered about. It's like a love letter to the '90s.
I remember becoming obsessed with looking through every nook and cranny. The game doesn't demand much of the player, except that they explore and find more details about what this family has been through. Learning about these strangers is fascinating, made possible by the level of detail that goes into the littlest things, like having a piece of paper with Chun-Li from Street Fighter II's move set. I like that you take things at your own pace and go where your curiosity takes you. You can't fail, and sometimes that's refreshing. Putting the pieces together and thinking things through can be just as effective as jam-packed action sequences. So many times, gameplay can put too many demands on the type of stories developers can tell. Gone Home doesn't let it be a roadblock.
There's some intimate about Gone Home. It's just you in a house, getting to know a family. When you find an important object, your sister, Sam, narrates an event related to it, like you're hearing her intimate diary entry. She's telling you her story, and while her life is ordinary for a teenager there's something captivating and beautiful about. Real issues and growing up can be a fascinating topic, and how Fullbright explores that is interesting and relatable. But at the end of the game, it's really how you got there that says most. Exploring a house and coming any with something deeper is worth the short trip.
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Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.