Gone Home Review: Where The Heart Is

Gone Home is the inaugural game from The Fullbright Company, a small team that is perhaps best known for their work on the hauntingly atmospheric Minerva’s Den expansion for Bioshock 2. With the creation of their own indie studio, The Fullbright Company set its sights on a more domestic setting to flex its prowess for creating environments that are just begging to be explored.

Enter: the Greenbriar mansion, Gone Home’s singular location. After catching a late cab from the airport, Katie Greenbriar has finally gone home after a year-long trek across Europe. Though since her family moved into a new mansion while she was abroad, it is more a home by default rather than a house she remembers. But when she arrives, instead of a warm welcome from her family, there is only a note from her younger sister attached to the front door.

“I’m sorry I can’t be there to see you, but it is impossible,” the note reads. And sure enough, once inside it is clear that she is gone. Her parents, too, are gone, leaving Katie alone in the unfamiliar manor to piece together clues from the past year and try to figure out where everybody went.

Gone Home: – PC [Reviewed], Mac, Linux
Developer: The Fullbright Company
Publisher: The Fullbright Company
Release Date: August 15, 2013
MSRP: $19.99
Steam Store: Gone Home

The conceit works, in large part because both Katie and I were stepping into the Greenbriar family’s creaky new home for the first time together. As I opened every door, turned on every light, and poured over the contents of every drawer it all felt completely consistent with a curious twenty-something trying to get her bearings in the mansion she was supposed to start calling home.

Gone Home is impressive for its commitment to building that sense of familiarity, despite the unfamiliar setting. Even when picking up an object, like a festive ceramic statue, instead of a simple prompt telling me to click the mouse I was greeted with the text “Good ol’ Christmas duck,” flashing across the screen. Katie’s contextual commentary, whether it be trying to remember the name of her sister’s favorite stuffed animal or finding her dad’s porn stash, effortlessly ensured that I saw the world through Katie’s eyes, along with all of the thoughts and familiar reminiscence that lens entails.

But perhaps the most brilliant and subtle point of immersion comes from a simple command: put back. Anything I picked up, I could look back where I found it and the “put back” prompt would show up, allowing me to neatly replace the item where it belonged. Of course, you can still throw objects anywhere you wish like an Elder Scrolls barbarian, but why would you do that in your own house? The atmosphere is so purely committed to its domestic suburban recreation that it’s hard not to get lost in it all, and I began treating the Greenbriar house as my own. As I became more familiar with the layout I even began turning off lights when leaving rooms, which is completely counterproductive to exploration but just felt right, somehow.

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6 Comments on Gone Home Review: Where The Heart Is

Mccrackelz

On August 20, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Yes, it was a brilliant experiment that succeeded far beyond my lofty expectations… but GREAT voice acting?

Isn’t that pushing it a little bit? I mean, they were ok…

Ian Miles Cheong

On August 21, 2013 at 11:51 am

I’d call your review an important one, if anyone’s ever to curate a critical compilation about the game.

Key

On August 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Seriously overrating this. I realise you have an emotional attachment due to your own sexuality but there was nothing in the review that suggested that there was an objective level of immersion or atmosphere that justified such a large score. Plus the voice acting really wasn’t as good as you’re making out, although videogames are still sadly seen as having poor acting overall so I guess “some of the best” doesn’t necessarily means it’s comparatively that impressive. Really, the only innovative things I gleaned from this is that there’s no violence and that you can put items back after you’ve looked at them. It’s great they did something different, yes, but come on.

GazH

On August 25, 2013 at 10:25 am

Why is this game getting so many rave reviews? I finished playing it a few minutes ago, it took a little over two hours to complete. Now while it was quite interesting, I liked the searching around and learning bits and pieces about Sam and her girlfriend, as a game it was seriously lacking. No puzzles, no surprises, no shock twists, just wandering around clicking things and listening to voice overs.

Don’t get me wrong, I quite liked it for what it was, but 90/100? Seriously? It was a two hour story about a sisters love for another girl, nothing more, nothing less. Sure, there were other parts about the parents, but nothing of consequence.

I think this is getting such big reviews because it’s ‘arty’ so the reviewers are trying to look smart by making it sound like more than it is. I can see them in their jackets, smoking their pipes, talking in high class accents, “Oh yes, quite the masterpiece, what! Jolly good show, such a perfect piece of story telling. Must tell the wife! Tally ho!”.

This is not a ‘game’, it’s an interactive story, a short one at that.

steve

On September 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm

“An emotional story that’s equal parts heart-wrenching and heartwarming. ”
I have read eroge with more emotion than this trash.

rayyy123

On September 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm

hipster crap