Home Sweet Home Review

By Mark Delaney, 27 days ago
Ever since defenseless horror games came onto the scene about a decade ago, they've been a target for indie studios who likely find the genre fits their budget while still allowing them to make something special. Light on mechanics to build but still potentially rich with proper scares, these hide-and-seek horrors are home to some of the best modern games in the genre. Home Sweet Home is the newest such game, and it definitely delivers some nerve-racking, truly scary moments in the vein of Outlast or Amnesia, but it's home to a few frightfully troubling bugs too.

home sweet home

Home Sweet Home is a ghost story based on Thai traditions of horror folklore. This setup immediately gives it a unique tone in the genre as it may very well be the first of its kind and is at least that on Xbox. If you're familiar with horror stories from that hemisphere, you'll know they often have to do with revenge, unrequited love, infidelity, or other social sins that allow vengeful spirits to manifest and torment people. The story in Home Sweet Home plays things slowly despite the game taking only two to three hours to complete, and it's a decent tale to follow even while poor translation and voice acting get in the way. Seeing where it plays out was interesting, which made the eventual game-breaking bug right before the final few minutes that much worse.

The bug, which occurs when the game is meant to hand back player control after a cutscene but fails to do so, left me staring at a wall, stuck in place, with just ten minutes of falling action to wrap up the plot according to videos watched after the bug continued to occur several times. On one hand, it's just barely forgivable since all that remained was a final scene that reveals the last plot details, but it still guaranteed I could not get to the end credits (or pick up the related achievements) and it goes without saying that such an issue can not be overlooked. I'm not sure if this bug will be widespread on Xbox as all the gameplay footage I saw online after the fact was from the PC version, but for now it remains a huge red flag for anyone looking to make this their Halloween horror playthrough.

That's too bad because when the game works well, it's actually pretty good and definitely scary. Subtle sound cues and white noise are used to great effect, almost like the modern Hollywood horror trope of using infrasound to unsettle people deep down within them. There are also not so subtle sounds, like the constant clicking of a box cutter brandished by the game's central sprit, which alerts you to her presence often times before her ghostly wailing does. Then there's her blood-curdling scream and accompanying music that kicks in when she spots you creeping around a corner. These moments remain downright terrifying throughout the game and without the bugs this would be a horror game no genre fan should miss. Maybe with the right patches, it can still be that.

*Put label here*

That's not to say the one game-breaking bug after the final boss is the only one hampering the game. There will be more to patch. Enemy AI poses some issues, typically resulting in enemies bumping into walls, getting stuck in some loops, or hovering by the player's hiding spot after narrow escapes to the point where your only option is to come out, get caught, and start over. These issues took the last act of the game, which was exceptionally creepy and almost unbearable at times, and left it feeling a bit broken too. Collectively, it makes Home Sweet Home a game with plenty of good parts but just too many problems to recommend to anyone unless they're extremely forgiving.

The achievement list is a short one and includes several for natural story progression. Of course, if the game-breaking bug I saw effects most or all players, it will leave several achievements vulnerable to becoming unobtainable. I unlocked five of 11 in my time with the game but was on pace to grab two or three more at least before I was forced to stop playing due to this bug. Assuming the bug can be fixed or avoided, as evidenced by the fact that one person on site already has the achievement to finish the outro, players with a guide will finish the game in under three hours as it's mostly linear and won't require too much extra work.

Check out our Best Xbox Adventure Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Home Sweet Home is an otherwise effectively scary horror game that is betrayed by some unfortunate bugs. One in particular stopped the game short with ten minutes of plot wrap-up remaining, preventing the full game from being seen. On top of that, even the game's best scares can get hindered by enemy AI that misbehaves by running into walls or getting stuck on loops that demand you hit reset. When it's all working, Home Sweet Home shows a lot of promise, but there are a few too many unintentional scares by way of the game's flaws to recommend it to most horror fans right now.
3 / 5
Home Sweet Home
Positives
  • Some memorable and even downright terrifying moments including a challenging finale
  • Thai inspirations give it a unique tone and story among genre counterparts
Negatives
  • Bugs relating to enemies that have them occasionally run into walls or get stuck on loops
  • One game-breaking bug right at the finish line that may prevent you from seeing the end of the game
  • Some poor translation work hinders notes and collectibles
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent two and a half hours just about beating the effectively scary Home Sweet Home before a game-breaking bug prevented him from crossing the finish line. He unlocked 5 of 11 achievements for 250 gamerscore. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is the host of the community game club TA Playlist. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his family. He almost never writes in the third person.