Gone Home (2016) Console Game Review

Gone Home is a first person adventure exploration game developed by Fullbright Company. Debuting in 2013 on PC, it got its console release earlier this year. With a fairly short run time and many positive reviews, it peaked our curiosity and we finally gave it a play.

First person games have long been a popular perspective for use in games. Same goes for walking simulators and story-driven plots. It’s a formula that frequently works but the question is, can it work for Gone Home, a puzzle-investigation game?

Well let’s start with a little back story. Gone Home is set in June 1995 and begins with a little voice message introduction as our playable character Kaitlin notifies her family that she is coming back from traveling abroad. She is returning on a late flight and will find her own way home. No need to pick her up. Upon her arrival, she discovers that the house is empty so proceeds to look around. This exploration leads us to find “memories” and notes left behind in different rooms. We also search for pieces of a journal that her younger sister Sam left behind. A mystery unfolds.

As we walk throughout the house, it is Sam’s story we uncover. She was left alone in this new place after Kaitlin went away. We learn that, being in a new school, Sam befriended a girl named Lonnie and they become really good friends playing video games like Street Fighter and they eventually fall into a romantic relationship. However, different paths to their future caused them to separate. But where did Sam go?

Gone Home: Console Edition – Opening Exploration

It doesn’t stop there. While we learn about Sam, we also get hints about our family. Mom is a conservationist and Dad is a writer with a series of books that were published but never picked up enough popularity in mainstream publishing. As we walk in Kaitlin’s footsteps, we see what kind of person her parents are as well. There are pieces to a larger puzzle along the way that when put together, open up combinations to more. The house is literally a mansion with secret passages and panels and hidden areas of the map to unlock. We must be diligent in our exploration.

Gone Home is a short game with a lot of heart. It packs in a strong story that although starts off slow with pieces placed far apart, builds fast as we discover the truth about Sam. The key is the connection with Sam through her journal entries. Her slowly-developing story will make you constantly guess as to what happened and where everyone went.

Gone Home

For an indie game, Gone Home works because the voice behind Sam is believable and the writing is captivating. It always motivates us to keep pushing on. The beginning focuses heavily on uncovering and finding the right pieces to unlock the journals to kickstart the story. It requires patience but the payoff is well worth it. The message is about friendship, love, acceptance, and family. Maybe even about courage and freedom.

Gone Home is a simple but heartfelt storytelling experience. It proves that games (like many indie titles) don’t have to go big. Sometimes a subtle story to discover and a strong message that gives players time to connect with characters is enough to make for a truly rewarding experience. Play this game.

Gone Home (2016) Console Game Review

Credits

Developers: The Fullbright Company Midnight City
Designer: Steve Gaynor
PLatform(s): Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure, Exploration
Mode: Single-Player

4.0
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