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REVIEW: Gone Home (spoilers)

My son and I both finished the video game Gone Home in the last couple of days. Well, my boy helped me a bit to finish it.

Why did Ben and I buy Gone Home? It's a good question: the game is not either of our usual style. What it comes down to is that Steam made it available crazy cheap during their Winter Sale, and it got good reviews.

Bottom line: we're both glad we paid a couple of bucks and put in a couple of hours. Ben liked it a bit more than I did.

Anyhow, look below the cut for my review of the game with spoilers… For me, at least, the game was poorly marketed. I didn't know what I was getting into, and quit early because I didn't understand it. When my boy played it through in a couple of hours, I was intrigued enough to finish it.

First things first: the title is terrible. We all know what has happened to someone when "she's gone home". Add that to a spooky old house during a thunderstorm, hints of a psychotic ghost, and your family who's supposed to greet there being nowhere to be found, and it all adds up to…exactly the wrong conclusion. Let me say it bluntly: this is not a horror title. There are no deaths, there is no violence, there is nothing particularly scary, there are no spring-loaded cats.

Having disabused you of that notion, let me disabuse you of another. This is not (primarily) a puzzle game. Yes, I see the hundred of objects lying around, the things and places to investigate, the rooms to search. There are in fact a couple of minor puzzles you must solve to finish the game, but they don't involve any sort of memorization, note-taking, or even deep reading. You needn't go into "adventurer mode" for this one.

One more. This is not an "open-world" game. I mean, yes, it is: you can wander all over the house (at least the currently-accessible portion of it) at will and investigate where you like. But the game is set up to encourage you to proceed along a fairly linear progression. If you get off the railroad tracks, you'll be a bit confused at best and totally frustrated at worst.

OK, having eliminated all those things, what's left? Well, a pretty good story, actually, told in the form of a video game. One of the first things you'll hear in the game is a narrator reading from "Sam's Diary". Your goal is really to hear those diary snippets, in order, by finding things in the house that trigger them. Along the way, you'll discover all kinds of other interesting things. Really, this is a video game in style only; the ideal audience is likely from a lot different demographic than most games.

Once all that was clear, I quite enjoyed Gome Home. There are aspects to the story I still don't understand, but I'm at peace with that. The ending was both unexpected and pleasant. I like short games, and at the price I paid—I really think it might have been $2—I definitely got my money's worth.

If you get the chance, give Gone Home a try. I'm curious to hear what you think. Fob