Well, it’s that spooky time of the year, so I decided that it was finally time to look up Gone Home. I have other games that fit into the more traditional horror genre, but after the comments I’ve seen praising the creepy atmosphere of this game, I thought I should take a look. So, is it any good? Let’s find out!
Gone Home starts by casting you as Katie, a young woman who has just returned home from a year of travel. You start outside the family home at 1am on June 7th 1995, to find a note pinned to the door from your younger sister Sam, which suggests that she has gone off somewhere as yet unknown. The house is deserted, but as you explore the house you begin to learn more about the inhabitants and the mystery of where they’ve all gone is slowly revealed.
This game can probably best be described as an exploration simulator as you interact with the game by examining objects left around the home. There are may different objects to fondle, including various forms and pieces of paper, cassette tapes that you can pop into a player and listen to and books. Most of the objects can also be rotated for closer examination, although there weren’t many parts of the game where this was necessary. Certain objects will prompt a reading from Sam’s journal and it is through these voiced sections that most of the story is told.
I won’t spoil the story, but I found that it was quite an interesting tale which was sweet and sad in equal measure. I was so interested in the story, that I experienced a crash towards the end of the game and I replayed the whole thing, despite having sussed the story out, just to see how it would end. It’s also one of those games where I will occasionally think of it even some time after my play through – normally only games like Silent Hill and Final Fantasy get that sort of reaction.
Next, let’s look at the atmosphere of Gone Home, which I think is one of the strongest elements of the game. The game is set during a pretty torrential storm and the sound was extremely well done, lending a sensation of isolation and tension to the mood of the game. The house also starts mostly in darkness (although you can change this in the options) which actually does a good job of building the mood as you fumble around for a light switch. I knew from the store page that there weren’t going to be any hideous creatures or dead bodies cluttering up the place, but I still felt tense whilst exploring and that was expertly aided by the soundtrack which is absolutely beautiful.
I also appreciated that there were no puzzles or combat in Gone Home, just simple exploration that could be taken at your own pace. As a child of the nineties I experienced some heady waves of nostalgia poking about the place, from cassette tapes and typewriters to references to the Super Nintendo and drawers upon drawers of denim which whooshed me right back to my childhood. The developers did an excellent job of re-creating that period and everything in the house rang true for the era which made for an immersive experience.
That pretty much sums it up for Gone Home. It’s a short game: my second play through only took around an hour and there is little in the way of replay value once you know the story. I’ll probably look it up again, the same way I look up Dear Esther occasionally just to bask in the atmosphere. Given the length of the game, I would suggest waiting for a sale before picking it up, purely because many people won’t feel the need to visit the game twice. Other than that, the controls are simple and fluid, the story (for me at least) lingers around long after the game is done and the atmosphere of tension is expertly crafted. If you like your games heavy on the story and light on the combat, this one is for you.
Gone Home is developed and published by The Fullbright Company and is available on Steam for £14.99 for Windows, Mac and Linux.