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Gone Home (PC) artwork

Gone Home (PC) review

"Safe, emotional and unoffensive, Gone Home does it just right."

Iím not one to shy away from games that focus on exploration and discovery, like your Minecraftís or your Terrariaís or your action games, but in these cases, said exploration brings you rewards like treasure or upgrades; rewards that improve your character and gives you reason to go out of your way to locate them. When it comes to finding rewards that merely give you plot or story points however, my drive begins to wane since your character or your player abilities arenít improved. Youíre merely learning lore or backstory which, unless Iím invested in the gameís world or characters, doesnít hold my interest for very long. Whether this is the fault of myself or the gameís storytelling I donít know, but itís often the reason why point ní click, adventure or dialogue driven games often go right over my head. Not because theyíre at all bad, but my investment in them was already checked at the door. Gone Home however is entirely story-driven, and I found myself wanting to see its tale to the end (and not just because I was doing a recorded playthrough of it!).

Gone Home requires you to hunt down and discover story elements, since when you first arrive at the Greenbriar home you find it vacant and must discover why, having no knowledge of the family starting off. This information is revealed slowly by discovering various clues around the house, a majority of them in the form of notes or memos, often attached to things for further emphasis. Some clues however will trigger an audio file by Samantha (sheís referred to as Sam in the game so the same will be done for this review), the player characterís younger sister, who reads aloud from her journal about things going on in her life, around the house or with the family. The more clues I discovered and the more audio excerpts from Samís journal I unlocked, I began to put the pieces together that this wasnít exactly a happy family, and soon an unconscious switch was tripped in my brain that suddenly made me want to Ďsolveí the mystery behind the empty house and why the Greenbriarís were divided across all fronts.

Whatís genius about actively looking for these clues or audio pieces is that paths through the house are locked, so keeping an eye out for keys results in peeking into drawers, rummaging through waste baskets and generally investigating each room of the house carefully which, like it or not, means youíll find more story elements that could be minor, major, or are not relevant but breathe in a few welcome sighs of realism, like a pillow fort in the TV room with a pizza box and discarded soda cans nearby. Soon youíll discover some smaller side stories within the family, like Janice (the mother) and a new colleague, Terrance (the father) and his struggling hobby. These donít add very much to the overall plot, but I viewed them as side-quests more than anything else. You canít just rip through the house like a bat out of hell without natural curiosity taking hold, and for someone with a slight completionist streak in me, I felt like I had to 100% the game mentally by finding everything I could. The satisfaction of knowing everything about the main story and side plots hasnít tingled the back of my brain since playing the first Pheonix Wright game.

And then thereís Sarah Grayson, the voice actress for Sam. The occasional mistake of breathing a bit too closely into the microphone or popping of breath aside, Grayson brings an eerie level of comfort in her performance, since sheís the only voice youíll be hearing in this spooky, big house. Her performance brought out sympathy in me when Sam talked about her hardships, and despite my desire to want to learn everything about the empty house, I wanted to find out what happened next to the troubled teen. Perhaps growing up in the same time span as her garnered a higher relation to Sam, but Iím not afraid to admit that I had to swallow my heart a few times during some of the more emotional confessionals. The game only benefits from such an honest, respectable performance, since when youíre listening to only one voice throughout the game, itís best that such a fine job is done.

Gone Home doesnít try to do anything out of its element, and thatís both its biggest strength and weakness. Itís here simply to tell a larger story and a few smaller ones; no shoe-horned garbage minigames, no fluff to purposely distract the player and alienate them, no quick-time-events, just explore a house for story elements. Obviously if one lacks the drive and interest to do only that for the entirety of the game, or if story-driven games donít interest you at all, then this game is a natural pass. However, for those with the patience to wander around an empty house while a rainstorm rages outside, then Gone Home will be worth your quiet time.


Dinoracha's avatar
Community review by Dinoracha (December 06, 2015)

Dinoracha is a world-renowned internet famous Let's Player, voice actor, writer, reviewer, e-sports competitor, masterful stream host and man of the people. These may or may not all be gross exaggerations.

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Nightfire posted December 06, 2015:

It's a good game.

Truly, my only complaint about Gone Home was the lack of a run button, for the few times I needed to backtrack.

Nicely written review, by the way. :)

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