Before I begin, I'd like to remind everyone this game is twenty dollars.
I beat this "game" in 90 minutes. Does that sound like it's worth the price? Gone Home has been sitting on my hard rive for more than a year, and today I learn why.
I'll start with what I liked, since the experience was more like a template to fill something much larger and far more intriguing. The set design was good, as were the object locations. Strange that I should comment about that, but everything makes sense as to where you find it.
On that note, they do a fantastic job of making this house a home. You really understand people live here and their little quirks and habits are present everywhere. The argument between mother and daughter on the cork board was a nice touch.
The sound design is also very well done for the atmospheric touch and constantly had me listening to every little bump and creak in as I made my through the house.
I can tell this is a character-driven drama and one that takes the writer's heart and soul, so I'd heavily recommend the writer adapt this to a screenplay or short story. A short film would be a much better use of a subject matter that clearly means so much to the designers.
Thus it pains to have to say what I'm about to say.
This is worth ten dollars, and that's strecthing it. There's NO payoff at the end. The whole time the story is building to something, but the overwhelming majority of all the interesting bits turn out to be mostly red herrings. If I may compare this to Alone in the Dark: the New Nightmare for a second. In that game, there were books worth of story detailing the history of the island, the Morton family, the Abkanis culture and religion, Carnby himself, and even the corrupt Bureau 713. Little of it was actually necessary, but to gain a full understanding and context for the events of the story, you needed to read all of it. In Gone Home, all but one of the characters are dropped, and everyone else had equally interesting stories. The biggest letdown comes about an hour in after you've been expecting a turn to some type of survival horror or even suspense. Instead, I'll give you a nice spoiler I noticed as soon as I started: there is no "run" key.
I'd probably understand who was who better if I had more frequent exposure to character's faces. Instead, I have to fumble with names, and I'm terrible with names alone.
As you traverse the house in a fashion similar to Castlevania but far more contrived (it's called "padding" ladies and gents) you'll notice the art style actually changes. Later, you'll stumble upon half-eaten potato chip bags with fresh-lock clips. The clips look like they're from a different game altogether with a notable drop in textures and model detail. One thing that threw me on characters was how portraits and photos supposedly showed the people, but each time it was like a different artist rendition. When you first start the game, go to the left side of the stairs and look at the family portrait. Notice how the girls appear to be in a completely different style from the father?
I spent most of my "investigation" wrestling with god-forsaken controls. I ended up spinning several times and getting hung up on doors. Navigating becomes a pain when you need to worry about boxes, which are EVERYWHERE. The game flat out tells you when you need to use certain commands in a given room, almost remosing the need for player input. In order to sift through the multitude of ultimately meaningless documents, post cards and notes, you need to select them on the tables or in the drawers. The "crosshairs" to do this are so specific, you WILL need to hold the little four-pixel dot in the center of your screen over absolutely everything just to make sure you don't miss anything. The "Scooby-Doo Effect" cherished by classic horror fans that told you something was usable is absent, which means opening a drawer does not make it obvious if something is in there you can use or read. You have to 1 be close enough, and 2 carefully move your pointer over every single scrap of paper in the jumbled mess of things in the drawer.
That's another thing. When you open a door, cabinet, or drawer, you, the character, can actually block the door from opening all the way, creating the illlusion of a jammed door when all you really need to do is step to the side. And here I thought Slender: the Arrival's click-dragging doors was annoying.
There are no puzzles, minimal characters, about a half-dozen dropped side stories, controls that basically fight you with with a combination of OCD and ADHD, and an ending you see coming a mile away. This game is not worth the price tag and I'm happy I got it on sale last year.