Gone Home is best experienced not knowing anything at all about it before playing it. I won’t get into spoilers here, but this is your chance to stop reading, buy this game, and play it through.
This game is unique to say the least. I can’t say that I have ever experienced anything quite like this. It is a game that doesn’t involve killing endless waves of enemies or big bads. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t involve you killing anything at all.
If I was forced to shoehorn this game into a specific genre, I would have to say that it is closest to a point and click adventure game. But saying that doesn’t do the game justice. What Gone Home is is a story driven narrative that takes the player into the life of a young adult who finally made it back home from an extended stay in Europe. This is where you begin. Where you end up is somewhere you would never expect.
This game is all about the story. One needs not worry about gameplay mechanics here as it is not necessary to think of this game in those traditional terms. Here, story is king and the journey that you go through to experience it is all that matters.
You start the game at your family’s front door during a bad thunderstorm. As you enter, you realize that the house is seemingly abandoned with notes on the wall written for you to read. This may sound like the perfect set up for a horror game, but what you get here is anything but that. You spend most of your time rummaging through the house. You open drawers, lockers, safes, and examine whatever you can to find out exactly where your family is. All the while you hear the storm outside. The atmosphere is thick and brooding. Tension pervades your every move and discovery. You are scared when you play this game but you don’t know why. Just when you think you know what is happening, you realize that you are thinking on the wrong track.
This is where Gone Home excels. The emotions that you feel while you are playing pervade you. It is very easy to get sucked in and forget that you are actually playing a game. What you are doing is living through the experiences of one girl in the mid-1990s trying to figure out what the hell is going on with her family. Playing this game in one sitting is easier to do than you think, not only because the game clocks in at about two hours, but because you will be so enthralled with it that you simply won’t stop playing until the credits roll.
As I eluded to before, the game doesn’t offer much in regards to mechanics. If you are comfortable with opening doors and drawers in a game like Skyrim, you will feel right at home here because that is what you are going to be doing as you search the house for as much information as you can find. And again, saying this is an “adventure game” isn’t quite right because you really aren’t doing much in the way of solving puzzles in the traditional sense. Sure, you need a key to enter a locked door here, you may need to find a combination to open a safe there, but the narrative seems to always push you in the right direction to do such things. You shouldn’t have to scour every inch of a room to solve a puzzle. The game cleverly puts things in front of you when it needs to.
When it is all said and done, you will be taken to places emotionally that you haven’t before. You will live inside the life of an average American family for one night. You will know your parents and your sister better than your real life next door neighbor in the span of a couple hours without really ever seeing them.
What genre this game is doesn’t really matter. How long it takes to “finish” the game doesn’t either. I say “finish”, because that is what you do. There is no “beating” this game. There is finishing a story. A story that will stay with you for quite some time.
What Gone Home is is best described in one phrase: Gone Home is an experience.