In Gone Home
, 21-year-old Katie Greenbriar comes home from a year's vacation in Europe. Her family - mother, father, and younger sister, Sam - moved into a new house while she was away. She comes home to the new house to find it empty, with a note from Sam on the door.
The gameplay consists of exploring a room, picking up items and looking at them, putting them back down, then moving to the next room. There are a few locked doors, safes, and the like, but these are not puzzles; they are roadblocks that force you to "explore" the various sections and rooms of the house in the correct order.
The story of what happened to Sam and Katie's parents is revealed as you pick up the various notes, letters, memos, and other scraps that the family has left littered around the house. It's weird enough that there are all these papers left lying out; it's even weirder that they were left in chronological order. The story is also revealed through audio journal entries left by Sam that start playing when you pick up certain items.
I'm sure the creators of this game, and any fans it has, will say that its strength is its story. It really isn't. I love a good story as much as anyone, and while Gone Home has the beginnings, the makings, of one, there isn't enough to it. Also, about halfway through, it becomes pretty obvious what's going to happen. I spent the second half of the "game" (I put the word in quotes because it's hard for me to call it that, since I rarely felt like I was playing a game) waiting for the story to get more interesting. It didn't. When I got to the final room - and I knew it was the final room from the dates on the notes and letters I was finding - I was hoping for a twist, or surprise, or at least some kind of satisfying payoff. There wasn't.
To anyone who still wants to argue that Gone Home
has a strong story, I'll point out that there's an achievement for finding all of the game's journal entries in 10 minutes:
Speaking of achievements, there's one particularly nasty one for completionists:
It requires you to find all, like, 700 of the developer's commentary nodes in the house. If you were wondering the story of who provided five words of handwriting on one note, what his or her name is and why that person's handwriting was considered ideal for that particular note, then repeating that experience 699 more times, you'll love grinding this achievement!
I don't see much reason to review the artwork, sound, voice acting, etc. Those were all OK, except for the "music" that's on the cassette tapes that Katie can pick up and play in tape players, all of which was ear-bleeding.
If you like adventure, strategy, and/or puzzles, don't play this game.
If you like a good, deep story told through action and dialogue, don't play this game.
If you like a short, simple story told one page at a time while you walk through a house on a railroad track and rummage through drawers, play this game.