Gone Home… How do I describe you? Gone Home isn’t a game. Period. What might amount to one – three hours of an interactive narrative is more of an interesting experience, one I think is worth having.
Gone Home takes place in the mid 90’s, and your character, Kaitlin, is returning from a trip across Europe. This, however, isn’t a house Kaitlin has been in. Her parents moved here while she was away and on her arrival she finds a note written by her sister, Samantha. The note amounts to, “I had to leave, please don’t try to find me,” which is enough to, of course, make you want to scavenge through the house, finding every scrap of info left in the unusually large house.
While ransacking your own, but unfamiliar house, you find an atmosphere that, for lack of better phrasing, gave me the creeps. It soon becomes clear that you’ll soon forgo the environment, leaving every light on you can find. Suppressing the loud cracks of thunder and trying to feel safe, a feeling that isn’t in much abundance here.
Even though I knew up-front that there was no combat, I was always looking over my shoulder, trying to figure out if I should actually keep my headphones on. This house feels like a place you shouldn’t be in, boxes are still in a few rooms, some lights flicker, and you’re alone. Most of this is chalked up to the idea of a mystery that is much more grand than what is actually going on. Nonetheless, Gone Home is a master at crafting tension.
Gone Home is filled to the brim with notes, work papers, and a set of audio logs that make more sense than I have ever seen in game before. You’ll find notes everywhere: on desks, in drawers, under beds, everywhere. These tidbits are what keep you moving, filling in the story about your sister and family. Somehow, they all feel substantial, no filler. This style isn’t something you see a lot of in todays games, it all felt refreshing, like my hand wasn’t being held, I was being treated as an adult. Countless times I found myself just wondering, taking in the attention to detail provided by The Fullbright Company.
It’s easy to see that a lot of detailed work went into things that could never be seen by the player. Notes that are supremely high resolution and cassette tapes that have full length songs on them are among what’s left to the player to find. Every scrap of information helps you fill in bits of the overall story, but without them, you’re still left with a narrative that makes sense, which can feel void in a few areas.
My steam time counter is on 66 minutes. While I have seen reports of up to three hours of time, I can’t help but feel that, while it wasn’t a problem for me, length can be a problem for some. This experience is short and Gone Home is sitting at a lofty price of $20.
Let me be clear, Gone Home isn’t necessarily what I would call a game. If you’re expecting that, turn away now. However, if you’re looking for a story that doesn’t beat you over the head, an atmosphere that manages to be creepy, and characters that you never meet, but are more than memorable, I think Gone Home will be well worth your time.