I wrote this some time back, 2017 or so.
I spent AUD$17 on Gone Home on Steam after reading a glowing review on Gamespot. I’m still undecided on whether it was worth that as you only get about two and a bit hours of game play out of it. There’s minimal replay potential in it.
Oh well, it’s mine now.
There’s no fighting, no puzzles…just you (Katie) coming home from Europe to an empty house in Oregon. Little by little you piece what’s happened while you’ve been away. Essentially, little sister is growing up and Mum and Dad are trying to get their middle-aged lives back in order. Nothing too serious – no skeletons jump out, no zombie apocalypse, no bodies in the attic (though I did expect this). It’s all very tame, no survival horror here.
The game is 90% about Sam and her lovelorn issues. I could never connect with her problems. I never had these sorts of dramas in my life at seventeen and so there’s no empathic connection.
The unrealistic house layout in Gone Home reminded me of the mansion in Realms of the Haunting. Whereas in that kind of game (Lovecraftian horror) that shenanigan is expected, in this product, it’s just…ridiculous. What ordinary, reasonable family would live in such a place?
Another striking thing is the lack of computers in the Greenbriar house. They did exist in the family home in 1995, trust me. The internet was new, but since the father is a novelist, I thought he at the least would’ve owned one, some dinky early Pentium or a heftier 486 running Word Perfect or AmiPro et al. Negative. There’s nought to be found.
Calling Gone Home a game might be a stretch too. There’s minimal interaction save for a lot of reading and listening to Sam’s diary entries. There’s none of the adventure game thing where you mess with your inventory or solve puzzles to advance a plot. It’s certainly entertaining though…but it’s too damned short.
A later opinion
Written originally about three months after the above.
I’m not going to say much in regards to the ostensible heartfelt teenage love story going on in this "game". I’m not even going to talk about the marital disorder going on with the protagonist’s parents - something 99.99% of reviews have overlooked in favour of the ooh-aah lesbian candyland. No, this "game" is very much like another "game" that was released recently - Dear Esther. They have a lot in common, these two "games". Both are largely non-interactive, short and not so sweet, non-entities. Wander around and the story unfolds - or something like that. Walking simulator, they call them, a term that was originally an insult, but now has come to neutrally encompass them
You pay your money and you get two hours tops of walking around what has to be the most absurdly and nonsensically designed house I’ve seen in any game outside the horror genre. I mean seriously…this is a "game" set in everyday 90s America - not Tamriel, not Transylvania, not Equestria, not Middle Earth. Yet, about 40% of this house is hidden behind secret doors. Say what? What ordinary, workaday, Middletown American lives in a twenty room house that follows no logical architectural plan known to mankind, where there are secret doors and passageways everywhere? Offshoots of the Addams Family maybe but not Mr and Mrs Greenbriar
Yet this crazy aspect of Gone Home does not factor into the game. If I was a 19 year old girl coming home to a sprawling house that has x amount of secret rooms and passageways, I’d be phoning the cops. Instead, you happily walk around this bizarre place without making any comment as if it’s the most natural thing to do. Shit, everyone I know lives in a weird mansion/bungalow with secret rooms and corridors, what about you?