Gone Home is a poignant story-driven game that explores the subject of sexuality while diverting your attention towards a plot-defying atmosphere. You are playing from Katie’s eyes, eldest daughter of the Greenbriar family, arriving at your family resident on June 7th of 1995 in the middle of the rainy night after spending a year’s worth of trip across Europe.
Before digging any further, background detail on the studio behind the game can provide ideas on what to expect before playing the game. Fulbright studio, founded by three former members of 2K Marin who developed Bioshock 2’s DLC Minerva’s Den, is the studio behind Gone Home, Tacoma, and the upcoming Open Roads. Supposedly, they were more of a fan of being able to work in liberty with no artistic tie-downs which aren’t normally found in working on big projects. So, together they founded Fullbright, and Gone Home was their first passion project.
The narrative styles of Gone Home can be attributed to the developers’ previous involvement in Bioshock 2’s DLC, where details of characters are unveiled by audio logs, and for that, you have to carefully explore the surroundings to see the big picture. Since exploration is the key to the ultimate experience of Gone Home, every little item in the Greenbriars’ house can contribute to not only the main story of the game but also to the extent of allowing you to envision the private lives of each family member, what they are like, and what it is like to live with them.
What kind of limits the full experience is that even though the plot takes you on the wholesome story of your teenage sister’s romantic journey, the environment and the setting of scenes avert your attention from the core of the game. On the surface, a few minutes into the game, it’s more or less of a horror game. Imagine getting to your house in the middle of the night with rain and high wind outside, floorboards and doors creaking as you stroll the spacious house where your parents and sister are nowhere to be found. To make it worse, Katie’s uncle died in the house. Objects such as books about poltergeists, obituary of the uncle, ouija board, bathtub with red stains (which is later found as hair dye residual), your sister’s ghost hunter journal, light-off hallways and rooms, all scream jump scare is just around the corner.
In fact, it’s totally not a horror game but a lovely story of your beloved sister slowly settling in the new school, new social cycle, and nothing but her own horror of gently developing a relationship with the girl she met in school while knowing how her very religious parents would react. The parents have their own obstacles to overcome too. Documents in the desk drawers, notes, and photos lying in the corner of the rooms give you a piece of vision into the life of the characters, without which the game would have been something else.
Voice acting and music are also what make the game more emotionally relatable to the players. The voice actor who played Sam, your sister, perfectly delivered the voice of the young, uncertain, and hopeful monologues of a girl. When fused with warm and calm music that pops up while reading the audio logs and roaming in the quiet house, it might just be what it takes to make you empathize and live the life of Sam through her sister’s eyes.
Gone Home takes approximately 3 hours if you take your time and observe every detail and that is the way you want to play because even though it would be hard to miss important parts, the more you explore the more you will get to know the characters and that is what the game is all about.
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