Gone Home – Review

gonehome-box

Platform | Release Date
PC | August 15, 2013
Developed by The Fullbright Company
Published by The Fullbright Company

The Pitch:

Investigate the Greenbriar family’s house. Discover the story of what’s happened to them. Go home again.

Gone Home - Sam's Room

It is difficult to file Gone Home under any set genre. Part interactive story and part room escape (albeit in reverse), Katie Greenbriar returns on short notice from a year long trip through Europe to find her family’s new home empty. While she was away, life continued for Katie’s parents and sister, Sam. The mansion, inherited from a distant uncle, earns the family sideways glances and hushed whispers from their new neighbors.

Gone Home - InspectUpon reaching the new family home, Katie sees a note from her sister on the front door. Apparently, she’s gone and doesn’t want Katie looking around to find out why. Naturally, this incentivizes anyone with a pulse to dive in headlong to the mystery at hand, but soon you’ll find more letters from Sam in obvious locations hinting at where to go next. It’s a nagging concern throughout the experience; Why am I being led along by someone who doesn’t want me to follow the trail?

The Greenbriar’s new house, the real star of the game, acts as a metaphor for the family living under its roof. Equal parts sprawling and oppressive, it has its own secrets to hide; secrets unveiled with near-perfect pacing. The greatest successes in Gone Home stem from interior design. Someone at Fullbright knew how to direct foot traffic through an enclosed space, because they always seemed to know what room I was going to next. Clues never came out of order, even though I was given access to large swaths of the home at once. Considering I was juggling the dissection of three lives (four if you include Katie herself) it’s impressive that I never felt confused about what was happening.

Gone Home - Entry NoteSam serves as the focal character, although through diligent cabinet rummaging Katie will likely piece together what’s been happening in her parents’ lives as well. But where their stories are conveyed entirely through letters, paperwork, and educated guesswork, Sam presents her story through audio diaries. Though superbly voice acted, and entirely necessary to sell the emotional content, these feel continuously out of place. It’s strange to play something so simple and realistic, and then suddenly Sam is talking about her day at school because you picked up a note she’d passed that day. There is an option to turn these audio diaries off, which can potentially bridge this disconnect, but doing so would rob Gone Home of its most genuine moments.

Gone Home is at times whimsical, ominous, and heartbreaking. It scratches the voyeuristic itch in all of us, but in poring through dozens of boxes and cabinets you may find real emotional investment in the characters. If you can suspend disbelief long enough to hear it out, the house has some beautiful stories to tell.

Gone Home - Entry

About Adam Bash

Adam Bash was the host of the Fall Damage podcast and is currently a contributor to Splitkick. He helps make the site do things.
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