Posted on August 23, 2013, Phil Hornshaw Indie Gems: Gone Home – Deep Exploration & Mysteries Await
Indie Gems is an ongoing feature in which we highlight indie games that are worth your time and attention. Think of this as your weekly Indie Game Playlist.
Also, read our full Gone Home review.
Defining exactly what makes a game a game and what can keep players advancing through a story can be a tough thing to do. Gone Home is an example of a title that has no outward goals except discovery, and no mechanics that do anything other than allow players to pick things up, turn them over, and learn things. And yet, Gone Home delivers one of the most intense and personal game stories of the year, and it does so without the players ever encountering another character.
Developer: The Fullbright Company
Katie has just returned home from a year abroad in Europe, coming home late at night to the Greenbriar Mansion, a huge house her father inherited while she was away. She’s never been to the house before, and she finds it empty — a note from her sister, Sam, laments that she would like to have been there for Katie’s arrival, “but it is impossible.” As Katie enters the huge house, there’s nothing to do but start exploring it in an attempt to discover where the hell everybody is, and what’s going on with Sam.
Gone Home is one of those experiences that will remind many players just what it is they see in the interactive medium. Exploring Greenbriar Mansion allows Katie to unlock secrets about her whole family as if she were sifting through an archaeological dig, and the stories found there, told in fits, starts and scraps of paper, demonstrate some of the incredible power of how video games can craft a world and a narrative unlike any other method of storytelling.
Clocking in at about two hours from front to back, Gone Home comes in on the short side, but it’s a game that’s deep enough that players revisiting Greenbriar will undoubtedly discover new things they missed before, and which will color their interpretation of the game’s events in new ways. Along with the game’s powerfully immersing feel — from moments in which players crack open Sam’s locker, pop in the various cassette tapes found throughout the house, or discover the hidden letters of the mansion’s previous occupant — it’s the kind of title that feels like it pushes forward on the envelope of what games can be, and how they can tell stories and impact players. In essence: It’s worth the investment.