copyright © Jedo Dre 2011
Gone Home like no other underlines the difference between a critic and a consumer. A critic, when reviewing a game, looks much more at the artistic contribution. Does the game innovate? Does it contribute something fresh, interesting and smart to the artistic trail of the human race? For a casual gamer, on the other hand, the main question is does this game dangle the keys in front of my face amusingly and for long enough to justify the amount of hard earned money I spent on it? When it comes to Gone Home, the answer to the critic's question is yes. The answer to the gamer's question is will likely be no. That is, arguably, one part of the schism seen in the review scores attributed to this game so far.
The other part of the schism is due to a lack of a clear definition or standards for the newly rising genre of interactive story, to which Gone Home belongs. This genre has been growing lately as part of the indie developer's rise to power but, because it is still a relative newcomer on the market, it struggles to find a clear place in our minds . If "Interactive Story" falls within your definition of a "game" than you can say that Gone Home is a game, but arguably it needs its own place and yet I sense that the gamers try to weigh it as a game and therein lies the problem.
As a game, Gone Home may disappoint you. It is 20 buks and it lacks many components of a game. Its story does not have a clear beginning, middle or a climactic finale; it does not have much challenge; it does not give an adrenaline rush; there are no guns involved. Furthermore, if you are going to tackle it like a game, looking for and concentrating on accomplishing an objective, then you will accomplish that objective too quickly and will decrease the value of the experience for yourself.
As an interactive story, though, Gone Home grows on you. You start the game alone, having just returned home. You have a minimum amount of information and you have to discover the story yourself by exploring the house, with pieces of the story falling in place as you find various items and locations. The way Gone Home tries to sell its story may feel artificial sometimes, with a lot of it being spelled out in the paperwork, reminiscent of the diaries you find in the Resident Evil games, but as the story progresses it draws you further in and the things you hear and find connect together in a meaningful way, making you want to find out more. The whole experience has a very human and realistic feel to it.
However, beware that the story may not be what you think. It appears that many gamers get into it expecting supernatural elements or something similar. This misjudgment is not entirely the gamer's fault. The game's atmosphere is kind of grim. The empty dark house, the flickering lights and a thunderstorm can give you a wrong impression. But perhaps that says more about our indoctrinated minds than it does about the game's intentions.
While the story is a matter of taste, the quality of the setting is unquestionable. The atmosphere is great and there is a hardcore attention to detail, which really helps to immerse you in the game. The attention to detail also forms the fabric of the story, because if the only items you would find were relevant to the progression of that story then the whole experience would end rather quickly. Somebody put great care into Gone Home and it shows.
Is it worth the money? Well, if you were to go and buy a newly released movie today, you would pay a similar amount for it and, while many people complain that the game is only 2 hours long, this reviewer found it to be closer to 3,5 to 4 hours if you "play" it right. However, it does not have the amount of scenery or emotion that goes into a good drama movie. As a game it is a little too short, and as discussed, incomplete. Nonetheless, if you take it for what it is, it is a great and refreshing experience that we do not get that often.
Gone Home is a good engaging interactive short story meant for an adult demographic. Many teenagers who will pick this diamond up will no doubt then throw it away mistaking it for a simple stone because all they are looking for are colorful stones. I felt a lot of pride on my high horse when I realised that I was not one of those people.
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