The lights are on
Sometimes, the small moments are what stick with you when you stop playing games. After I completed Gone Home, I thought I had experienced something truly wonderful, but the less-than-two-hour playtime was leaving me a little bummed, since games like To The Moon had lasted longer and had had a bigger impact on me. However, the day after I finished the title, I found that moments from the game were actually leaking back into my thoughts, and decided I appreciated the game more than I thought I did. Gone Home is, well, short, but leaves something behind that more recent titles have been unable to do.
"LUCY I'M HOME!"
Gone Home's premise is simple-you're Kaitlin, the elder sister of the Greenbriar family, who's returning back from her trip to Europe after being away for about a year. Upon returning home, she finds no one waiting to greet her, and instead finds a note from her younger sister, Sam, telling her to not look for her, implying something has happened. Following this, Kaitlin sets forth within the house to discover what has happened during her absence, and that's really the entirety of the game.
The game has no puzzles, no combat, no platforming, or anything of the sort. It's one of the most basic forms of gaming I've seen, but that doesn't degrade it in any way. The controls are very simple-Kaitlin can pick up objects, and turn them around in a 360 degree motion to see any small details on them. Sure, there may be a few combinations, but it's not really a puzzle to just find one and put it in. This makes the game easy to pick up for any individual, but in reality, older audiences will appreciate the game more, because of the nature of some of its themes.
What's really striking about the game is that the only audio you will hear is either Sam's journal entries, TVs being on, the pouring rain outside, or doors creaking open. Sam's voice actress does a tremendous job in her role, and certain lines of her dialogue are still creeping back into my head. The emotion in her voice just, makes me feel that her story just comes to life, and it made the game that much better. The storm outside never gets too distracting, but it never goes away either-it was a great background to an otherwise basically silent game.
Such a sweet place...OMG TURN ON THE LIGHTS!
Most rooms already have the lights turned off when you enter them, and I found that the first thing I did in each room was immediately turn on the lights. The game isn't about jump scares in any regard, but about atmosphere. The aforementioned audio contributes a lot, but the visuals also are important. Every object is detailed enough to seem important, and not just there to, well, be there. There are original art assets, from drawings, to the family painting, and also crudely written notes, and make the people who left them behind seem more real, and like a family. The house itself is just, well, a place to explore, and it's many rooms were neat to dive into, even if some felt similar (all the bathrooms...).
The story of Gone Home is wonderful, but I won't dive into any spoiler related ideas. Basically anything past opening the front door is a spoiler, considering some of Sam's notes are nearby, so I won't mention anything. The main focus is on Katlin's younger sister, Sam, but there still are answers to the parents being gone. The only thing I'm really disappointed with in the story is that Kaitlin herself doesn't really have any input to what happens-sure, it could've been a distractor, but I am curious to hear Kaitlin's reaction to everything she sees. It's not a deal breaker, but something I noted.
In the end, I finished Gone Home within two hours of booting it up. Even though I did love the story, and simple premise, the fact that it was so short was kinda sad. I do want to play through it again sometime, but in the short term, I'm just going to let it sink in. If you're up for a good story and have a couple hours to play through the game, Gone Home is worth it. Just don't expect a wealth of content.