Price: £10.99 (Steam)
Developer: The Fullbright Company
Publisher: The Fullbright Company
Release Date: 15/08/2013
What it is:
The day is June 7th, the year 1995. The cinemas are filled with classic films such as Braveheart, Die Hard 3, and Johnny Mnemonic. This is all irrelevant to the player, Katie, who has just arrived home from a year traveling Europe. You arrive home to see that no-one is here. A cryptic note left by your sister sets up the story for this narrative-driven piece. The story is sweet and concise, a self-contained piece that was created by developers that worked on games such as XCOM and Bioshock 2, and featuring the writer of Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den DLC. Minerva’s Den was, and still is, considered one of the best stories told within that universe; and in Gone Home, I felt that this trend continued.
The pacing of the story was suitable for the time I spent, weaving an enjoyable narrative on the family you left behind and answering the question of “just where is everyone?” in the form of audio notes from your sister as you interact with objects around the manor. These items often contain texts between the various characters but some may be nothing other than a simple book. But these simple objects are a strong example of a practice that is used often within the video industry: the art of show, don’t tell.
One note that specifically springs to mind is a book left in one of the final rooms that reveals a subplot in and of its own right. This story runs alongside the main story and reveals some details but this entire story can be missed if you don’t pay attention to the objects around you.
This leads me to the two biggest gripes I have with the game: Some of the items you can interact with are notes with cursive handwriting. For one or two of these, I found it quite difficult to read them, one going as far to find a copy of the text online. I really would’ve loved to have an option to have the text in a typed format in another window, similar to how a few other games have done so. I think this would have been a small change that really could’ve made it substantially easier for some players. The second issue I have with the game is the length. It’s short, quite painfully so.
An estimate of the time I spent was around 3 hours, mostly due to me back-tracking a decent amount and just enjoying some of the music tracks hidden around the building. Honestly, I think this is the biggest issue that I have in that, I don’t know if I can justify a £11 price point for a very short story. I think that the only way this could be justified is likening the game to a film, be it in cinema or on a DVD, as the price points usually match up to the amount of time you were to spend on them.
If I were to recommend this game, I can wholeheartedly recommend this game if it was maybe £5 or around that mark, but I feel that £7-8 would be the limit I would pay. Overall I thought it was a neat little experience in a very atmospheric house with a story I genuinely felt interested in playing.
- A compelling story, easy to follow and well paced.
- The atmosphere was created subtly and carefully, providing a nice backdrop without over aggressively pushing it towards you.
- The game is short, maybe 3 hours maximum.
- The package is more of an experience than an actual game, very few mechanics present. Mainly walking and interacting.
Who’s it for:
- People who really enjoy strong narrative experiences.
- Fans of games such as Dear Esther or The Stanley Parable.
Who should avoid:
- People who want a traditional game.
- Those who want a long game they can come back to.