Finally, the review I’ve been promising you all week! It won’t be brilliantly written, but hey, hopefully I can give you a bit more information on the game!

Gone Home is a new game by the Fullbright Company, an indie team of game developers. It eschews violence for story, and indeed many of the usual trappings one might expect from modern games, in favour of telling a story. Actually, what the game does is tell multiple stories, centered around one main story.

Gameplay-wise, it’s very simple. You return from a year abroad, to find your parents’ new home empty. It’s up to you to explore this 19th-century mansion and unravel the reason as to why nobody is there to greet you; and what the deal is with the frantic phone message you’ve just picked up on the answering machine.

The game fairly oozes atmosphere, primarily of the ‘haunted house’ type. Even though nothing supernatural occurs, the aesthetic and feel is still there, mostly reinforced by the player’s own reflexes and expectations based on previous experiences. This adds a certain amount of tension to the initial exploration, as might be expected if one were to come home to find their family missing. As you piece together the story, though, the initial fear reaction disappears, and gives away to whole tides of varying emotions. If you’re an empathic sort of person, identifying with the characters in the main story is very easy, and if you’re the investigative sort, you will be able to figure out that there’s more going on in the household than just the primary story.

For me, a real treat was getting to travel back in time to the mid-nineties, when the game is set. The whole aesthetic is just so right, and all the bits and pieces and references just left me awash in a wave of nostalgia. A few things will just seem weirdly dated to those of us less than about 25 years old, but the observations of mid-nineties life just feels… Nice. I miss the nineties, sometimes.

The game is not without its controversies; many people have been dissatisfied with what they perceive to be a glorified storybook. Indeed, the lack of interactivity and puzzles to solve certainly challenges the concept of such a product being labelled a game. Furthermore, many people have pointed out that had the main story been about a heterosexual relationship it would not have won as much critical acclaim.

Here is what I have to say to that; yes, deep in my heart of hearts I suspect that the game has garnered a little more hype and good press by telling a story about a homosexual couple. However, as I’ve always said, the key to good, balanced storytelling is to write Characters, not Genders. The story would have worked equally as well had the partners been heterosexual or if the genders had been flipped, if the characters were the same. I would’ve still experienced the same thrill-ride of emotions that the story delivers.

So, my recommendation: If you aren’t that hung up on scoring points, racking up kills or gathering achievements, and you’re looking for a gentle trip into the past that’ll tug at your heartstrings, give Gone Home a go! It’s been well worth it for me.

Cheerio for now!