Gone Home Review
Gone Home offers gamers a unique, first-person experience. Set back in 1995, players control Katie, a young woman who arrives home after a trip abroad. However, she finds her home empty, and must explore to find hints about where her family has disappeared to.
Unlike most games, Gone Home has a very relaxed style. There's no combat, no enemies to escape from. You simply investigate Katie's residence at your own leisure, discovering clues along the way.
So, how does Katie's adventure hold up? Let's examine the triumphs and failures of Gone Home!
Platforms Available On
Gone Home succeeds in these areas:
- Creepy, intriguing setting
- Stellar character depth
- Freedom of exploration lends realism
- Impressive graphics
- Low cost
Gone Home hooked me at the start with its ominous atmosphere. You play as Katie, but because she's alone, she serves as more of a silent protagonist, allowing players to imagine themselves in her place. She returns to an empty home during a thunderstorm at night, creating a tense and foreboding feeling.
Without spoiling anything, Katie learns various truths about her kin as she browses the house, especially her younger sister, Sam. Sam left several journal entries that you'll hear her narrate, offering a detailed look into the joys and struggles of her life.
Finally, the game looks great, and the ability to explore the home as you choose helps players feel in control, and not like they're being pushed in one direction as some games do. Gone Home also features a reduced cost compared to most games, as it's a smaller-scale production. Shouldn't run you any more than twenty bucks.
Unfortunately, Gone Home hosts a set of issues:
- No scares
- Low replay value
Don't get me wrong. I love adventure, character-central games. Until Dawn and Heavy Rain stand as two of my favorite. But unlike those titles, Katie never actually encounters anyone, never has to make difficult choices, never really participates in anything. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I'm not really sure I could because not much "happens." You simply learn what became of the family, and that's that.
With such a creepy setup (family gone, dark house, Sam leaving a vague message saying not to follow her), I kept waiting for some giant reveal or scare. After I realized none were coming soon, I began to hope that the whole game was leading up to one titanic moment of revelation. It isn't. No killers, no monsters, no jump scares. This isn't a scary game, and I feel like with such an isolated and mysterious opening, it could have been a great one.
Instead, you just investigate notes (reading takes up half your time) and slowly piece together what's happened. And while the family was dynamic, each member having their likes, dislikes, and faults, I couldn't help but feel the game was lacking something. Games are interactive experiences, and while you do technically control Katie, she never does anything. Thus, the "game" feels more like a book, except you get to read the chapters in the order you want.
One of the biggest issues I have with Gone Home is how it makes you think it'll be scary, but isn't. In addition to a creepy setup, you find clues throughout the house of Sam's paranormal interests, including some alleged conversations with a ghost using a Ouija board. But again, you never encounter any paranormal activities.
Maybe I'm just disappointed because I thought there would be more sinister elements to the game, but two words come to mind for Gone Home: wasted potential. If you don't enjoy scares, and really just want to explore an old house in '95, deducing where its occupants are, Gone Home is the game for you.
But for most players, the tense setup conflicts drastically with the calm gameplay and lack of action. Gone Home has received surprisingly high reviews from many sites, citing its impressive graphics and multifaceted characters. While I can't argue with those aspects, for this reviewer they don't outweigh the lackluster "events" of the game.
What do you think of Gone Home?
Is Gone Home For You?
Below I'll post a link to a playthrough of Gone Home. If you're still unsure whether this title is for you, watch a few minutes of the gameplay, and you can quickly see if you'd enjoy the way Gone Home operates. The video length also reveals just how quickly most players finish the game.