Game Review: Gone Home

I’m one of those gamers that tends to explore as much as possible. I delve into every nook and cranny looking for loot. I’m also drawn to games with compelling stories. Oh, and I was 17 in 1995. Needless to say, Gone Home was a game that was looking right up my alley. With all that said, I was a little hesitant to get too excited about this game based on my not-so-awesome experience with Life is Strange.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

The basic premise of the story is that you’re coming home from a year travelling in Europe. While you were gone, the rest of your family moved into a new house. Your flight gets in late, so you arrive at the house mid-rain storm and no one is home. Your “job” is to find out what happened.

The story is good. But not great. It’s the WAY the story is told that makes the experience shine. The voice acting and all of the details are really good. From magazines to cassette tapes, to hand written notes and movie posters, everything feels genuine. It doesn’t feel like the details were just cut and paste from somewhere else. You can really tell there was a LOT of thought put into the background of the characters in this story. The story unfolds really nicely as you explore the house, listening to diary entries, and reading various notes. At just under 3 hours, it’s a really short adventure. Initially I was annoyed that it was so short as I didn’t feel like I got my moneys worth. After accepting the fact that the game was over and taking some time to think about my experience I realized the group at FullBright nailed the length. It’s long enough to tell a really good story but short enough to avoid getting bored exploring the house. The story, and pacing, kept my curiosity levels up and at no point did I feel like I was grinding. This game really did strike a perfect balance for content and length.

Technically speaking…
As current gen games go, this one is not a technological wonder but, in this case, that’s a good thing. The art style is really neat and every environment looks and feels lived in and authentic. The music and sound is solid and really plays a strong role in the experience. The audio tapes play music that feels straight out of 1995 and the game score and audio cues fill out the experience of exploring a creepy, old house.

Verdict: 8.0 
This was a hard game for me to write a review for, partly because there wasn’t much to write. The game was very short, the story was good but not great, and the game play was simplistic (but unobtrusive). Sounds like a bad experience, doesn’t it? However, the more I think back on my experience with this game, the more I liked it. It wasn’t so much how GOOD the story was, but how genuine it felt. It WAS a short story, but it was just long enough for me to NOT get bored with it. If you’re into decent stories told in genuine and creative ways and are into first person exploration as a primary game play mechanism, then I would highly recommend this game.

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