Disclaimer: This post is made as an entry for PS Asia’s PS Plus Junior Reporter competition. The points and views raised in the review however are not affected in any way.
The indie darling that swooped critics and the mainstream’s hearts alike, Gone Home pioneers the idea that has not been seen for a while: focusing on the experience and story, rather than gameplay. Gone Home had sparked many more “walking sims” (I prefer the term “experiential games” where the story and world building takes center stage, with little to no traditional gameplay mechanics like combat.
So, is Gone Home worth playing? Even if you’re not a fan of stories and games that favour less gameplay like me (I am a fan of systems-based gameplay) it is still worth a playthrough, especially now that it is free on PS Plus for this month (for Asia, the rest of the regions got it earlier).
With the assumption that readers of this review has no idea what the game is all about despite it has been a while since its first release, the review contains no story spoilers or specifics about the details to not ruin the experience.
Graphics & Sound
To be frank, Gone Home is not exactly the most beautiful game despite having a small area of play: just a house. Granted, the Fullbright Company (now known as just Fullbright) is a team of 4 and what they managed to whipped out for graphics, it’s at least decent. Sound-wise, the ambient noise is nice, and the many cassete tapes (and one record)of liscenced songs adds to the world building.
Performance-wise, everything looks stable and running at 60fps, which is always good to have.
Without spoiling anything, Gone Home is a first-person experience where you just walk inside this house and figure out what the story about its inhabitants, including your player character. You can pick up and inspect objects, and a voice narrative of one of the characters serves as your cookie-crumb that leads you to progression. There is a main story arc that you will follow, but the rest of the story of the other characters are all left for you to figure out yourself. There are no puzzles to solve, just look around hard enough and you’ll figure out how to progress.
The fun here is making use of all the clues and hints in the house to figure out everything. From the first few minutes of starting you have enough pieces of information to figure out who your player character is and the story surrounding the house.
Speaking of the player character, Fullbright managed to throw in some character into your player character effectively. And it is all by the use of making personalised context-senstive prompts. Instead of just “grab postcard” the prompt sometimes read in a personlised way, like “Oh, here’s the postcard I sent!”. Even better, the player character reacts when picking up certain items or notes, while not all, the ones that do did left me a good impression.
Other than that… Gone Home is basically a walking sim. Go here, see that, read hear, listen to that. Oh, and you will be turning on a lot of lamps. And opening doors and drawers. Funnily enough they figured out how to justify these acts in a neat way.
Content & Longevity
Since Gone Home is all about the first time experience, it’s really not much incentives to go back after completing the first time, that should take around 1-3 hours. However, there are some modifiers that can help your experience to be better. You can have all the lights turned on by default, or have the game turn off the voice narrative and have that main plot to be all left to you to piece it all together, like the rest of the characters’ story. There’s also developer commentary as well.
With what little they could possibly muster with for content in this kind of game, it’s quite generous.
In hindsight, a review of Gone Home would’ve be better if it’s written like a movie review as it is all about the experience. But the show must go on, and I cannot do a movie review format justice.
If the game is not free on PS Plus, I will be hessitant to recommend this to everyone: not everyone is all good with spending some money for a game that will only be magical for the first few times and not many replay value. That said, Gone Home has an interesting premise going for it and it is worth at least one playthrough to see what the appeal of the experiential games are. Maybe you can appreciate it more than I do.
A 7/10. Maybe a 9/10 if you are into the story side of things and do not factor in replayability, game length and gameplay features.
Looking for other PS Plus free games of the month reviews? I have you covered. Click here for a full list of games I managed to cover.