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Gone Home review

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AT A GLANCE
  • The constant sense of discovery and exploration
  • A richly-woven narrative for you to uncover
  • Environments that are full of life and charm
  • Finishing the game in two hours
  • Little replay value
  • Some fuzzy textures

Gone Home is a small window into the human experience. It invites you into an average family’s home to discover their fears, aspirations, and innermost secrets, culminating in the rare sort of game you don’t often get to play but wish you always had. As you explore this eerie estate during a dark and stormy night, you’ll discover that there are no monsters to fight or puzzles to solve. Instead, all you’ll find are carefully placed narrative elements that work together to tell a story deep with meaning and significance. And as with any good story, you won’t want to put it down until the very end.

The game is played through the eyes of Katie Greenbriar, a young woman returning home after spending some time abroad in college, only to find her family’s home empty and deserted. You’ll walk around its rooms and examine objects to piece together where your family is and how they went about their daily lives. Because you don’t know what kind of game it is at the beginning, Gone Home surprises you by not conforming to expectations. Its mysterious, almost-threatening setting makes you want to believe something is lurking in the shadows. Your fears will mimic real life when you enter a dark room to turn on the lights, but because the game is essentially a simulation of real life, you’ll realize there aren’t any monsters to be scared of at all. These instances play with your senses and effectively hold your attention throughout.

"All you’ll find are carefully placed narrative elements that work together to tell a story deep with meaning and significance."

To add to this effect, the house you’re exploring is one that's full of character and life despite being empty. You’ll see dishes still in boxes and rooms left unfurnished, informing you that a family moved in not so long ago. Glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars, corded telephones, and Magic Eye posters will transport you back to 1995; items like crumpled-up homework assignments, postcards, and magazines will give you a glimpse into each person’s life and personality. Not only will you learn about the Greenbriars through the things you read, but you’ll also appreciate how your eyes are easily drawn to all the rich and abundant details in your environment.

Almost everything can be picked up and examined, turning the act of inspecting objects into a game all its own. You are rewarded for your curiosity with answers to your questions and additional context to the story. Why is no one home? What secrets does this house hold? You’ll find out that this isn’t the home Katie grew up in, so for her too, Gone Home feels as much as an exploratory journey as it does a homecoming.

There isn’t any right way to explore the Greenbriar home, and this openness makes your time with the game all the more personal. You can enter any room in any order, examine everything in it, and move on to the next one, or come back to each room at your leisure. Though there are a couple of instances where you’ll need to find ways to unlock certain doors, these moments play out naturally as you make your way through the house so things never drag or impede the flow of the game. Lasting only a little over two hours, Gone Home is short but filled with so much meaning you’ll want to play it again to find every little detail you might have missed.

"Gone Home is as much an introspective journey into human life as it is a game so very worthy of your time."

Those details reveal some incredibly personal stories, particularly with Katie's younger sister, Sam. As you find some of her belongings, you'll trigger journal entries that play different bits of Sam's life as she struggles to fit in and discover who she is. Gone Home deals with themes not often explored in video games, and it does so with an admirable degree of taste and honesty. Rarely does a game manage to tell a story such as this one with such poise and maturity while making it accessible and enjoyable to anyone that wants to see it play out.

By the time you make your way to the last room, Katie will have learned a great deal about the family she’s been away from--and so will you. Your game begins inside an unknown building, but as you become familiar with the Greenbriars and learn of Sam’s feelings, this house eventually transforms into a home inhabited by everyday people with believable lives; many can relate to being in Katie’s shoes, for instance, or to the struggles and joys of her family. One of its many strengths, Gone Home’s subject matter is so effective because it’s so relatable.

Gone Home attempts to explore the boundaries of a game’s communicative potential and succeeds by giving us a story that satisfies our senses and touches our innermost being. Despite being a very short experience, the mundane acts of walking through hallways, opening doors, or reading pieces of paper become a poignant adventure dealing with personal issues that are handled brilliantly and provide a strong basis for a great game. For that, Gone Home is as much an introspective journey into human life as it is a game so very worthy of your time.

This game was reviewed on PC.

More Info

Release date: Aug 15 2013 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Adventure

Topics

Indie

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46 comments

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  • Zepaw - August 28, 2013 10:08 p.m.

    Just finished and although it was great I can't agree with 5/5. Where it did score top marks is how engrossing it was. I was captivated and drawn into the surroundings for the entire time. It barely feels right calling it a game. A great storytelling experience unquestionably.
  • john-ingram - August 26, 2013 7:11 p.m.

    I have finished the game three time, and the least amount of time it has taken has been 3 hours! The first time was 7 hours! there are plenty of reviews saying 5-6 hours too! The fact is, you can finish this game and not know what you've missed. You may have missed 30% of it's content and whole sub-stories! It's like two people having told you they visited the countryside, only for it o transpire that on just dove around country roads for an hour, never traveling a less than 30 mph, and the other person parked their car and went for a 3 hour hike. Neither of them technically lied, but I know which one "actually" visited the countryside as far as I am concerned! To those that finished it in a hour, tell me what happened between Oscar and Terence? Tell me what happened between Jen and Ken? And where is the piece of paper where Sam writes explicitly about her first time "with" Lonnie? Answer two of those three questions and i'll believe you finished 100% of the story/game!
  • Zepaw - August 28, 2013 10:22 p.m.

    Thanks for those questions, played it full through and didn't realize I'd missed some minor but key details. I cheated though and found the info online. I already searched the house as much as I could think to. Its damn bold of the developers to make such powerful connections easily missable. Knowing the full story makes me feel a lot better about the game.
  • jeremy-garrison - August 25, 2013 3:18 p.m.

    Three huge cheers for MAJOR spoilers in the first paragraph! Nice job!
  • CalvinCrack - August 18, 2013 11:23 p.m.

    just finished the game and its really good. highly recommended. do yourself a favor thouogh and don't read anything else about it, just play it
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - August 17, 2013 8:39 p.m.

    Played this last night. I thought it was great. Interesting story and a good atmosphere although my time with Amnesia made me paranoid of the dark rooms.
  • awesomesauce - August 17, 2013 6:53 p.m.

    People saying that a "length doesn't matter" is true on an artistic POV but on a score chart "yes it does, especially if money is involved" For example: Think about the famous Ernest Hemingway phrase "For sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn" Only 6 words and yet it carries an emotional psychological impact Now imagine paying $30 just to heard those 6 words. Outrageous!; for that money you want something that's going to drag out your dollar. No matter how great something is, if something is high priced it's high priced! On that note however i see how some newer joiners are going to disagree with the score and even some vets here. (i for one trust GR) But that's the risk of saying something is deserving of being put that high on the pedestal even if it does deserve it. That basically opinions in a nutshell; everything from sports teams-to- politics -to- game reviewers. So we just have to hope they're correct in their trying-to-be-unbiased judgement. (Like i didn't agree with their JAPvsUSA boxart article for example)
  • universaltofu - August 17, 2013 3:31 p.m.

    Just finished it, loved it, pretty sure I missed something as I never opened the safe in the basement, but at least it's an excuse to replay it.
  • TheBountyHunted - August 17, 2013 11:42 a.m.

    I bought it for about 18 bucks, completed it in an hour and a half, and I would say it is pretty good. It is a captivating and controversial story that kept me on the edge of me seat because I didn't know what to expect exactly. Consider it more like a movie that you discover as you wander the house and learn the story of the family that lives there. It is a bit over priced at the moment for such a short game, but again, consider it like a movie. And if you are strapped on cash, definitely buy it when the price drops or when it is on sale.
  • ~LanceR. - August 16, 2013 10:55 p.m.

    Come on people; and you guys don't complain spending $15 on a movie ticket that lasts around 1 hour and 30 minutes average? Same concept.
  • supergiraffe - August 16, 2013 8:26 p.m.

    I may be a little late, but if I can add another voice to the "actually played the game" group, I'd say it'd really good.
  • MasteroDisasta - August 16, 2013 4:28 p.m.

    This looks and sounds utterly fascinating. Can't wait to check it out.
  • MyCoolWhiteLies - August 16, 2013 8:54 a.m.

    Really looking forward to checking this game out. It seems really interesting. The price is a little steep right now, but I'll get it once it's in the $10 range.
  • shawksta - August 16, 2013 7:54 a.m.

    Hmm, interesting
  • tomvevers - August 16, 2013 7:45 a.m.

    I don't understand the argument here. Any time a game gets 5 stars on GR, people are always outraged. I don't think length in any way reflects quality. Did anyone here play Journey? That was critically acclaimed and not too long. I haven't played the game but I intend to before I start deciding whether or not it deserves its 5 stars.
  • DevaSteve - August 16, 2013 9:16 a.m.

    If it was £50 would it still be a 5 star game? Value, increasingly, has to be taken into account.
  • tomvevers - August 16, 2013 11:26 a.m.

    Yes but I don't think that the length of the game necessarily reflects value for money. You can have a really long but shit game.
  • zelta38 - August 16, 2013 11:42 a.m.

    I think the price discussion really comes down to the game's budget. A 2 hour game cannot reasonably price itself at $60 but somewhere between $10-15 and not higher no matter how extraordinary (and even replayable) it is because typically the budget to make it is in general much lower than $60 games, although the direct effort and passion put in by the dev team might be much higher in the smaller game. Plus for a cinema-length experience it would not make cognitive sense to most people to pay more than a cinema ticket for the experience. That's an issue for many developers, Blizzard games are being played 10+ years after release and they see revenue only on the initial sale but then the auction house was a bad idea, tough balance there (and one of the many reasons why there is so much DLC+microtransactions nowadays).
  • DevaSteve - August 15, 2013 11:41 p.m.

    Historically, because all games were roughly the same price, all games could be reviewed from a level playing field. Similar to films, simply "How good is the game?". However, one of the advantages of digital future is the variable price. This changes the question to "How good is the game considering the price?". Same as car reviews where a Punto may get better reviews than a Bentley. £14.99 seems to me to fall into the Bentley category, great game, but probably not worth the money.

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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