Developer: The Fullbright Company
Release Date: 8/15/2013
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It goes to show that a smaller focus can create a great story and atmosphere. You don’t need a multi-million dollar budget to create something great. Gone Home starts out oddly because you are given no direction, but after about 15 minutes you realize what you are supposed to do. You arrive home from a school trip and no one is home. You find a note on the front door from your little sister, Sam, that says she’s gone and won’t come back. With the dark atmosphere of lightning and rain, you expect this to be a murder mystery. In fact, that feeling changes throughout the game.
Once you find the key and go inside you just wander around examining everything. There are letters to read and interesting objects to look at. After a while, you start finding key items that activate journals narrated by your sister. The home itself is a great recreation of a 90’s home. It actually brought back a lot of childhood memories with CRT TVs, cassettes, VHS tapes, and the various items from the 90’s. It gave me a warm feeling and I felt at home in this house, but I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Was it haunted? Was there a murderer in the house? I went on to read more letters and items to see that the mom was a park ranger and the dad was a tried and failed author and magazine writer. I later discovered a few locked areas and three different cabinets that had lock combos on them.
Honestly, you don’t need a walkthrough for this game. It’s all pretty easy to figure out. I just went from room to room looking at everything and realizing that this lesbian relationship with Sam and her friend Lonnie is actually pretty heartbreaking. You see signs throughout the house that it’s a bit of a broken home and Sam is a problem child. Little things like good report cards from you then disciplinary notices from the school for Sam. It all brought back memories to me from my school days and my childhood. Anybody who grew up in the 90’s will feel the same way. As I reached the end of the game I was pretty emotionally stirred up, I couldn’t wait for the end.
Once I got to the final room and saw the ending I was really disappointed. I felt the entire 1-hour journey was for nothing. Sure, the story was sad and will tug at your heartstrings, but the ending was predictable and lame. There are signs everywhere of Sam studying the occult and various things about the house being haunted, but nothing ever happened. I was never spooked, there was no murder, it was just a few journals narrated by a gay sister and that’s it. 90% of gamers will find this game extremely boring and even if you don’t, it’s not worth $20. You get about 1 hour of gameplay with a lame ending. I expected the sister to have committed suicide and you find her body upstairs, something like that, but no, just a lame ending.
The game has decent graphics, but nothing too impressive. There’s a lot of attention to detail everywhere to create this great 90’s atmosphere, but you still need a pretty powerful rig to run it due to the complex lighting effects. As it is, Gone Home is a great narrative and a trip down memory lane, but the ending and lack of gameplay are disappointing.