Note: This review will contain major spoilers!
June 7, 1995. 1:15 AM.
You arrive home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you, but the house is empty. Something’s not right. Where is everyone? And what’s happened here?
I haven’t had the chance to play Gone Home. I’ve learned when it comes to indie games like this, I usually enjoy watching a Let’s Play first. And while watching it meant inevitably spoiling the story– because Gone Home is full interactive storytelling– I was entirely satisfied. Very rarely do games give me the same feelings as books. They’re both two entirely different ways of storytelling, in my opinion. But there’s something about Gone Home that just resonates… kind of like how a story does long after you finish the last page. You’re emotional over the ending and you can’t help but say, “I love that. But I want more.” You want more not because the story feels incomplete. You want more because it’s just that damn good.
You play as 21 year old Kaitlin Greenbriar, a college student that has just arrived home from a year abroad in Europe. It’s an immediate first-person investigation. You find a note on the front door from your younger sister Sam who is supposedly missing. Your parents are absent, and you’re welcomed by a huge dark house. The sense of dread is almost immediate and it only grows as you make your way through the story.
The voice acting is incredible. While you don’t ever encounter any other people, you learn about them through things left around the house: letters, your own postcards, photos, phone messages, and most importantly, Sam’s journal entries. Picking up certain things will start voiced narratives that give you such raw insight into Sam’s life that you can’t help but relate with her. This game proves that you don’t need any gunfights or extended dialogue in order to make a good game. Gone Home is the epitome of damn good storytelling. There are no markers, no obvious hints to where you should go next… your curiosity fuels your movements, and there is a lot of stuff to look at. And suddenly you realize that you’re not just searching for Sam… you’re learning about this complex family.
Dad (Terry Greenbriar) is an ex-author living beneath the cloud of a failed career and failing marriage, Mom (Jan Greenbriar) is a Senior Conservationist who’s possibly having an affair, and with Katie gone, these two damaged adults are dealing with a teenage daughter who is just now figuring out who she is… and it’s something that they don’t approve of. Through Sam’s journal entries, you learn of a girl named Lonnie who she immediately becomes entranced by and then falls in love with. But Lonnie’s due to leave for basic training soon which adds even more strain on their blossoming relationship. Gone Home is a love story, raw and innocent in its delivery, and I guarantee that you’ll become enchanted by it. If you are still hesitant about downloading it to play yourself, feel free to check out a full playthrough below.
Gone Home is available for $20 through Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux