(Note: This review contains spoilers for the whole game
. I also purchased the game via the Humble Bundle and have played it all the way through. It took about 2 hours, so please excuse my Steam playtime.)
Suffers from a bad case of the Eight Deadly Words. "I Don't Care What Happens To These People."
I dislike leaving negative reviews on Steam products, especially for games like Gone Home
. It's not an awful game, by any means. But I certainly didn't enjoy it either. Honestly, I wish Steam had an "Ehhhhh"
option with a yellow, wiggly, indecisive hand for its icon 'cause that's how I feel right now.
I've got no objections to the gameplay (or lackthereof) in Gone Home
. In fact there was something about being left on my own in such a detailed environment that I rather enjoyed. Rather than having puzzles in the traditional adventure game sense, the challenge of the game comes from piecing together the jigsaw-puzzle of a plot from the environment. Despite not having any mechanics to enforce progression (such as conventional puzzles), it still feels
like you're accomplishing things.
Naturally this comes with a trade off: if you aren't interested in the details, then you're not gonna enjoy Gone Home
But I think my biggest problem with Gone Home
is that the atmosphere of the game just doesn't match the story. You arrive home late one night to find your house empty. There's a distraught message left on the answering machine, a note from your sister pleading your character not to "go snooping like [she] always does", and a turned-on TV playing a severe storm warning on repeat. All in all, it feels like the setup to a horror story, or at least a tragedy. I thought that something happened, something terrible, and caused whoever was at home at the time to leave in a hurry.
In reality, nothing even remotely tragic happened. The reality of the situation was a teenage romance story that, for me at least, bordered on glurge
...Admittedly, I am not in the target demographic for love stories so I might be biased in that regard. But moving on.Gone Home
builds up a tense atmosphere, then doesn't do a whole lot with it. Presumably the "worst-case scenario" buildup was meant to make the main love story plotline feel like a relief, but it just doesn't work. Sam's narration throughout the game also detracts from the mood. Her stories contain very little conflict and are, to be honest, pretty sappy.
The entire narration mechanic just baffles me, honestly. Why bother letting Sam narrate her life story when you're just gonna rifle through her journal anyhow?
That said, the game is not totally without its charm. The object tooltips ("Grab Cup", "Read Note", etc) often changed to more personal observations ("Sam had this when she was like four" for a folder, "Gosh, Dad" for a dirty magazine, etc), which was a touch of detail that I absolutely adored. Even though the protagonist was silent for most of the game, it still felt like I was playing as a character with a personality. But these moments were few and far between, and the main character might as well have been faceless for what a pitifully tiny role she played in the plot.
TL;DR: this game is... somewhat enjoyable, but there's just not enough good parts for me to be able to recommend it.