It has been an arduous journey for The Fullbright Company’s 2013 PC hit Gone Home to find its way onto home consoles, which includes the shuttering of original publisher Midnight City, the former indie-focused subdivision of Majesco. Roughly 10 months after it was announced the console version was a no go, however, Gone Home: Console Edition is, in fact, a reality. Let’s see if it was worth the wait.
With Gone Home being focused entirely on exploration, the controls are extremely simple as you’ll walk, crouch, look around and interact with objects. That’s it. There were moments where the option to move a bit faster would’ve been appreciated, but I understand the decision to keep things more deliberate given the game’s tone.
Visually, there’s not that much going in. The house is reasonably well designed and does a good job creating a “lived in” feel, but the more you explore the more you’ll find objects repeating — no family in America has more three-ring binders and phone books than the Greenbriars. It can also be quite hard to read the handwritten documents scattered around; the ability to zoom in further could’ve certainly helped alleviate that problem.
Gone Home‘s primary story is told via journal entries from your younger sister, Samantha, which are triggered when you interact with and examine various objects. The voice acting is very good, and her emotional delivery breathes life into things and makes you want to find the next journal to figure out where the narrative is headed. Ambient sounds such as crackling thunder and creaking floors generate ample suspense in the empty (?) house. The music is solid.
After traveling abroad in Europe for the past year, Katie Greenbriar returns to her house to find a strange note from her sister Samantha — it indicates Sam has gone and that Katie should neither look for her nor tell her parents about it. Well, that won’t be difficult as no one seems to be home, leaving you to search for answers to questions like: Where did Samantha go? Where are your parents? And what has been going on in your new house while you’ve been away?
It’s hard to discuss much about the specifics of Gone Home lest I wander into spoiler territory, but the game is structured around exploring the house to answer those questions. The main story arc surrounds Sam’s disappearance, but if you’re thorough enough (and you should be) you’ll begin to unravel details about your parents, their trials and tribulations relating to work and more, as well as some unexplained phenomenon that have been occurring.
As noted, Sam will narrate her own story via a series of journal entries. There are 23 in all (24 if you count the “secret” journal, though it doesn’t reveal any plot elements), and the more diligent you are in your search the more of her story you’ll be privy to. Additional items can be fleshed out by doing things like reading wadded up scraps of paper or checking out drawings, but they’re not essential to the plotline.
Ambiance plays a big role here, as there’s a consistent sense of foreboding as you venture down darkened stairs and secret passageways. While you may be tempted to surge ahead, you’re better served taking your time; even if you search judiciously you’re unlikely to stretch the experience much beyond two hours.
There’s little reason to re-enter the house a second time, either, unless you want to knock out a few optional achievements (there’s one for completing the game in under a minute, so clearly the developers intended for you to take your time organically rather than making you jump through some artificial hoops to stretch things out).
Although the phrase “your mileage may vary” can apply to pretty much any title, it’s especially true here as Gone Home is undeniably light on what has traditionally been considered gameplay. There’s more control than in a visual novel, but you can see the genre from here.
Despite being light on content and featuring a significant asking price ($19.99), Gone Home delivers a truly engaging story, one that probably won’t end up where you think it will. There’s genuineness to the narrative that’s refreshing, so if you enjoy a story-driven experience odds are you’ll be glad you chose to explore Gone Home.