I’ve suggested a few times to go into a story knowing as little as possible, and I’ve never meant it more than I do here. I knew absolutely nothing about Gone Home before I played other than how much critics were raving about it, and with good reason. Now I implore you, stop reading and come back once you’ve beaten the game. It is only 2 hours long and completely worth, though the $20 price tag might warrant waiting for a Steam Sale. Just to reiterate, SPOILERS abound. Do not continue reading unless you’d like to ruin your experience.
SPOILERS! Gone Home not only has a wonderful narrative that keeps you guessing but also a smartly crafted level design that work hand in hand to take you on a guided tour through this family’s life. The creepy atmosphere had me constantly guessing exactly what sort of game I was playing. Even more impress where how all the pieces for how the ending were laid out in front of me, only I didn’t know what they meant. With two paths open, either the left or the stairs, I immediately veered left. Games have trained me over the years to explore an area thoroughly before moving on. Developers Fullbright depended on that to move me in that direction, though I could have easily gone upstairs and the story would have worked out the same.
Quickly, I realized that this was a budding love story between two girls discovering their sexuality. My focus was solely on Sam and Lonnie as I completely related. I’m sure others that played did as well. Who can’t relate to two youths, regardless of gender, transitioning into adults while finding love? Though I was completely enthralled by the two, I still noticed other subtleties that I continued to investigate. Was the mother having an affair? Why was this house given to the father? What was his obsession with the JFK assassination? Every question has an answer, though many are indirect and evasive. I only discovered many of these on a second playthrough as I was blindingly captivated by Sam and Lonnie.
Honestly, I expected to find at very least Sam dead for the first half of the game. I suspected she either killed herself, the lovers pulled a Romeo and Juliet, or creepy Daniel came around looking for his game with a knife. This notion faded after I left what I thought would be a haunted basement. The torn asunder kitchen did raise nerves a little until I found the note in the garage, finally explaining the parents absence, and renovated space.
At last I had the key to the attic that taunted me earlier. Seconds before I discovered it I would have raced up the stairs if it was in my possession. Locating it amidst the seance table, my previously abated fears of finding some or all of the family dead in the attic came rushing back. I took a deep breath, and made my way up. Finding the first journal explaining how Sam slept through the calls, I quickly turned back, racing to the foyer. I needed to hear the messages on the machine again, now with context. At last, I returned to the attic, ready to learn their fate.
I can gush for pages about everything I loved in this game without ever mentioning the two girls. Learning about the awkwardly phrased plaque below the family portray, why a decorated skull adorned the shelf, or reading the ever evolving tale of Captain Allegra filled me with a sense of happiness. This was a look into families life that was perfectly laid out enticing you to explore further, to unravel every possible thread. Everything from the clever placement of the light switches to the end of Sam’s story was meticulously thought out and lovingly packaged. I and others have often said they’d rather play a perfect 2 hour game than and over blown 12 – 20 hour one. Gone Home is that game. Beyond that, this game evicted emotions from me, something the hundreds of other games I’ve played haven’t.
Were the Super Nintendo’s patched out?