I told you there wouldn’t be many of these.
Apparently, the only way I finish games is if they can be completed in one sitting. And even though I started Gone Home at around 10:30 at night and was determined to take my time with it and find absolutely everything on my first playthrough, I was up past 3 AM because I could not go to bed before I unraveled its mysteries.
I just realized that in my GOTY list for last year, I didn’t point out that the clear winner was To The Moon. I still can’t praise that game enough, despite the more technical/gameplay aspects of it being a little lacking. And that is a really fucking weird thing for me to say, given my focus on gameplay over all things.
So it’s with no small amount of praise that I say that Gone Home is 2013’s To The Moon. Actually, it’s more like if Dear Esther and To The Moon had the most perfect baby ever.
I have been following this game for a while, and while I vocally disagreed with their resignation from PAX in what was probably the most respectful thing I’ve ever written in my life, I never lost excitement for the game. And it did not disappoint in the slightest.
Yes, the gameplay is barely more than Dear Esther‘s was – mostly you walk around and look at stuff. But in Gone Home, you actually pick things up, occasionally putting them in your backpack. Finding certain objects triggers audio logs to play, slowly revealing the story of what has happened while you’ve been away. Come to think of it, the gameplay most resembles Anna, though I am loath to make the comparison, as Anna‘s “puzzles” were so incoherent.
I really don’t want to say more than that. While I still found To The Moon‘s story to be more moving, Gone Home tells its story far more brilliantly for its format – interactively. And so to explain any part of the story would ruin the wonderful process of putting together the puzzle pieces yourself. All you really need to know is that the environment is so interesting and varied that by the end it’s difficult to believe that you spent the entire game in one house, the voice acting is stellar and makes you really believe that this girl Sam actually exists, and the progression is so open-ended that you could spend hours gathering every detail of the house and its present and former occupants, or grab what you need and get to the “end” of the game within a minute.
Okay, I lied, there’s one more thing you should know about Gone Home: shit gets creepy. There’s a side story that every now and again made me feel like it was going to devolve into Anna territory, and I was pulled into a bait-and-switch; promised an adventure game where I got horror. Fortunately, Gone Home only hints at horror elements to reinforce how very alone you are in the house while remaining absolutely focused on the story it set out to tell from the beginning.
One thing I can’t help but point out is the negative reaction the game has received for the user score on Metacritic. But reading the negative reviews is very telling of the type of people who won’t like this game. If any of these complaints seem reasonable to you, don’t bother with Gone Home.
“Interesting “game” while it lasted, which was all of 90 minutes. Definitely not worth the price of admission.”
“It’s merely completed when you find all the keys/combinations? Too easy. I could have completed it in 30 minutes if I’d known this.”
“The fact that this can be completed in a mere few minutes makes any price over 1.00 a joke.”
“Maybe 2 hours of content at most. I don’t want to be associated to this as a gamer.”
No, sir, I don’t want to be associated with you as a gamer. If you want a challenging puzzle game or a forced time sink, look elsewhere. Gone Home never promised these things. You might as well be complaining that your television isn’t comfortable to sleep on.
If you can’t go five minutes in a game without killing someone, or count your game’s worth at an hourly wage, then Gone Home probably isn’t for you. But if you can relax and explore a house, looking for clues and listening to a beautiful story for a couple of hours, then what are you waiting for? Go play Gone Home, ya idjit.