Game Review: Gone Home

This week’s review is of the video game Gone Home.

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Basic Plot Synopsis: Gone Home is a short (two hour) exploration game where the protagonist, Kaitlin Greenbriar, returns home after a year abroad. She finds an empty home, with no sign of her parents or her sister Sam – and a mysterious note from Sam begging Kaitlin to not look for her. It is the player’s role to act as Kaitlin, and uncover the mystery of what happened in the year that she’s been away.

My Thoughts: Gone Home has made a splash in the indie and mainstream gaming markets with it’s distinct design style and narrative. I had put the game on my “To Play” list but had never really given it much thought.

A friend gave me a copy via Steam for Christmas, and it has easily landed in my top three games of 2013.

The Fullbright Company has succeeded in creating a realistic, compelling interactive narrative. Gone Home is the game that Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls) wishes they could produce.

Gone Home is a marvelous achievement in environmental design and construction. The house Kaitlin explores feels like a real home, with living breathing occupants. The team at Fullbright did an excellent job restructuring an accurate depiction of an American household in the 1990’s (the game is set in 1995) and each item you touch in the house was clearly placed with consideration. As the player, I felt completely immersed in this world that so earnestly mimicked my childhood memories of the 1990’s. The overarching atmosphere keeps the player engaged due to the intrigue and the mystery – I held my breath opening every door and turning on every light. Even though two hours looks short on paper, the time is well spent in Gone Home and you feel very satisfied by the end of the play through.

Beyond the simplistic yet elegant game play, this game has one of the most fascinating narratives I’ve experienced. The story of the Greenbriar family is told through each small discovery Kaitlin comes across: an open letter, a circled newspaper article, a left-over sticky note. Sam’s part of the story is slowly unearthed as Kaitlin finds items that unlock journal entries (that the player experiences as audio recordings) attached to various belongings she finds around the house. Both of these elements converge together beautifully to paint the story of the life of the Greenbriars and solve the mystery of their fate. There were numerous times I felt chills as I discovered a new journal entry or I read the fine print on a receipt and tried to piece together the story.

As a side note, I want to say that Gone Home is a perfect mystery in that it keeps you guessing but the conclusion ties all of the loose ends and satisfactorily resolves all of the clues/story elements.

This game receives my highest recommendation and I firmly believe Gone Home is one of the most distinct and original gaming experiences available in today’s market.

– E.B.

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