Gone Home: Console Edition Review

Share Button

Gone Home is set in 1995 and has you controlling Katie Greenbriar, a young adult returning to the states from her year long trip abroad in Europe. However, this is hardly Katie’s story, and this becomes clear early on. Instead, Gone Home is an adventure where you slowly piece together the story of the other residents of this home, mainly your sister Sam, as well as your mother and father. Having been gone for a year and returning to a new house that your family just moved into, it makes sense that Katie is just as lost as you, the player, and throughout the game, you learn about the happenings of your family over the past year along with Katie.

Discovery is the point of Gone Home, and meticulous exploration is the means to that end. From the very beginning of the game, the empty house that you have just returned home to is open for exploration… for the most part. Apart from a few locked rooms that need keys to enter, most rooms can be opened form the get-go, and a many of the objects lying around the house can be picked up or interacted with. Although this is a nice touch at the start of the game, you quickly learn that much of this intractability is pointless and sometimes even misleading. Within the first five minutes of the game, you are led to believe that Gone Home is an adventure game with scattered puzzles, but that puzzle-solving aspect is left in these first five minutes. I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t disappointing, and truthfully, the overall experience suffers slightly because of this.

GoneHome2

The lives of your family members over the past year are pieced together mainly through reading letters found around the house or listening to your sister Sam’s journal entries. There is a lot of reading and listening in Gone Home, and this is really where the exemplary writing shines. Every letter you find feels realistic and natural and they never feel like a chore to read. The stories of your mother and father are usually told through letters found around the house, while your sister’s story is usually listened to whenever you find a piece to her journal. Sam’s journal entries are plentiful and the voice acting is very well done. However, after finishing the game, I felt that the story arcs of your mother and father were not treated with the same care. While Sam’s story arc had a fulfilling ending, the stories of Katie’s parents felt like an afterthought, and that’s a shame because like I said earlier, the writing is superb.

Gone Home’s story is its main attraction, and it does not disappoint. Sam’s journal entries are full of emotion and had a natural flow to it. Gone Home is a short game so giving away any of the story would be too much, but by the end of the game, I can honestly say that Sam’s story had become one of my favorite love stories in any video game. However, as good as this story might have been, its transition into video game format was sometimes disappointing. The house that you explore is detailed and feels lived in, but lacks any real substantial world-building qualities that I was expecting. Had there been more environmental storytelling then I would have understood the choice to present this story as a video game, but far too often this detailed house was simply a means to an end and didn’t contribute enough to warrant exploring every nook and cranny of it.

GoneHome3

Gone Home succeeds in many aspects, but disappoints in others. I fell in love with Sam’s character even though you never even meet her face to face, and her story was filled with emotion and was treated with a lot of care. For all intents and purposes, this game is a story about her. However, the process of actually uncovering this story was often pretty boring. There’s a certainly a novelty to exploring and interacting with this incredibly detailed house that Gone Home takes place in, but I eventually grew tired of it and sometimes it actually got in the way of uncovering the game’s impressively written story. There are a few memorable aspects of Gone Home, mainly Sam’s story arc, but there are also plenty of forgettable aspects of the game. Overall, it was a nice and short experience, but not one that warrants a second playthrough.

Final Word

StarStarStar Empty StarEmpty Star