Turn on all the lights, if you don't turn on every light switch you will never know what happened. It's that good.
This is one of the most overrated games of recent time. Just because a game is controversial and nostalgic doesn't make it stand on its own. If it was released as a free project, then I would think this was an achievement. So many people praise games and movies when they do something out of the "norm" in the story or otherwise. But why do people consistently do it. Its like people who claim they listen only to indie music because it makes them special. But really all they do is hang out with other "indie" people and hate on those who don't understand them. So much for being independant.
This game has great voice recordings, the texturing and the modeling are also good. I found my self smiling and almost giggling with memories as I went through the house for the first 5 minutes. But after that, I lost it. I found my self just needing to complete the predictable game just becuase I had heard it was short and I figured I might as well see the whole thing.
One thing that really bothered me is that even though it is supposed to be an open exploration game, it is extremely linear, so much so that it takes away from the whole point. How am I supposed to feel like I am exploring a house, when I have to unlock sections of the house by completing certain "find the key" sections of the game. And to explain why this was such a bother was because so many of the plot developments (notes) about the family progress in a chronological manner over a year, in notes that are already in the correct order as you find them. Why are notes that are more recent near the end of the game, and notes that start at the beggining of the chronology are found at the beggining sections of the house? Did the mom live in the closet during the 6 month mark and then move a month later to the kitchen so she could leave behind another piece of paper. I know there needs to be a fine line of guiding the player, but I felt the devs missed it. I understand why to an extent, but at the same time It didn't take me long before I figured out I was being spoon fed a story in a faux-exploration manner.
All though this game was short, it was a time consuming very short story that overstayed its welcome.
I would say go though this game once because some of the few 90s references are great for anyone who grew up during that time. But it is not as great as people say it is. The house is huge, but just feels empty, and I don't mean devoid of people, just that it feels lifeless by itself. Everything feels structured in its layout and there are not that many props, just a few striking 90s references, and then a bunch of light switches, toilet paper, towels, and coffee cups. In so many ways this "coming home" experience could have felt more powerful. This game can't survive on the narration of a journal for the whole 15min total of narration for almost 2 hours of walking from lifeless room to lifeless room.
Maybe I'm spoiled, I just finished the Vanishing of Ethan Carter and I had my self pouring over every item I found, all the while being emotionally touched by the way the story actually came together in my mind alongside the actual plot, and not just as the naration dictated. In this game I got tired of hearing the whiny sister talk and explain while I looked at glass coasters with a fern on it. Thing was I never felt like I was involved in this game, and the character you play seems just as distant. There are so many better ways to tell a story and create a depth of feelings the player can sense in the visual medium of video games, other than to just put a bunch of objects in front of me and then tell me about the objects as I chronologically come across them.
Nostalgia: + (for about 5 minutes but somethings are really cool, like the inclusion of magic eye papers)
Voice Recording: + (even though the subject annoyed me like someone elses slowly released fart in a small room, to me it was still very tenderly and emotionally delivered)
Atmosphere and Sounds: ~ (okay, but mostly bad, good lighting, the house is lifeless though and doesn't feel like anyone could ever be home even if the game put them in there, and the thunder claps seemed really off and badly recorded.)
Story: - (bland, slightly intriging for a second, and then it turns into, walk here, unlock this, walk there, while narration complains and explains)
Gameplay: - (It's hard to have an exploration game where exploration really matters if I have to go through the story in chronological sections anyways, I never felt like I was figuring anything out)
The only thing that made this game worth it to me was flipping the cassete case around, and around, and around, and around. It's mesmerizing. But not worth it enough to gain a thumbs up. Give it a shot, but do not under any circumstances pay any more than 2 bucks for it. Try and get it in a bundle.