This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).
Time played: 3 hours
Gone Home is an emotional game. It is designed that way. It wants you to invest yourself in the characters, the story. For a lot of people, that was what happened. The hype for it, the accolades, the gushing – clearly it delivered on some level. But not for me. When the hype is about the story, and the emotional connection to a game’s characters, then you are left disappointed when you don’t feel that connection. Only slightly disappointed, because I enjoyed my time with Gone Home. But the draw of the title, the aspect that elevated it into greatness for its many fans, is just not there for me.
I absolutely loved the house. Almost all the way through, I found myself nodding and murmuring that I want to live here. The environment – including all the decorative touches that make it feel lived in – is the greatest part of this game for me. The story is decent, the voicework is very very good, and the detective part of the game is fairly interesting. I especially liked the fact that you can find cassette tapes and players around the house and actually play the music you find. The Riotgrrrl sound is okay, I guess, but it doesn’t do much for me.
I have to touch on the atmosphere of Gone Home, though. I can kind of understand the cries of bait-and-switch, of a massive failure to deliver on the build-up of the early game. Despite knowing from the hype, the trailer, and the promotional blurbs that this is NOT a horror game, I still felt very nervous exploring an empty house alone at night. In the middle of the woods. During a storm. With no explanation as to why the people you expected to be there, weren’t, and vaguely sinister warnings about “whatever you may find…” The game certainly tried its best to conjure up a horror vibe throughout your exploration. Having no payoff for all that stress can make you feel somewhat cheated. The thing that freaked me out the most was the fact that at all the TVs, there were empty input/output cables for VCRs or games consoles…but all of them were missing. Every one of them.
Despite being a 90’s child – I would have been close to Kaitlin’s age in 1995 – I didn’t get many nostalgia buttons pushed. Perhaps you have to be American, perhaps you have to have been a teenage girl to completely identify with the game world. I liked the main story, and appreciate the experience of Gone Home, but ultimately all I can say is that I think it is a good game.