Description official descriptions
Gone Home is a story-driven adventure game played from a first-person perspective. It focuses on exploration and is set entirely in a single house. The protagonist is Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 20-year-old woman who returns to her parents home in the USA on 7th June 1995 after a long trip in Europe. When she arrives the house is entirely deserted with no trace of her father, mother or sister Samantha. Sam however has left a note on the door that she is gone and urging her sister not to come look for her.
The game then offers the player the ability to freely explore the rooms of the house in any order or direction. Clues are pieced together by examining items in the environment: notes, letters, bills, photographs etc. These are however not presented as puzzles, but are scattered among typical items found in a house. The core gameplay revolves around browsing through items of which most serve no direct purpose. Drawers can be opened, lights can be turned on, you can look inside a dishwasher, browse books in a library, read flyers ... Most items are typical for specific rooms, such as different types of foods in a refrigerator, but also a lot of random items such as buttons, markers, pieces of papers and more, as they are expected to be found in a typical family home. Almost every item in the environment can be examined even if there is no direct purpose. Items can be picked up and rotated freely in any direction to get a better look. Every item can be dragged around and tossed at a different location, or sometimes used in the environment such as putting a tape in a recorder to listen to music. This does not serve as a mechanism to solve puzzles however, you are rather encouraged to find as many clues as possible and then piece together the story and the events by yourself. The amount of information discovered only depends on the player's investigation and is not enforced by the game. Exploration is non-linear, but there are a few triggers through keys to locked sections to slightly guide the player.
Movement is done through separate keys with the mouse to look around. Items that can be interacted with are highlighted. The second mouse button is used to zoom in. There is a basic inventory system for the few sections where Kaitlin keeps an item with her, but not as a puzzle mechanism. Certain key items trigger an audio diary of Kaitlin's sister Sam. These are afterwards stored in a separate menu for further review. There is also a map for the different rooms and floors in the house, and it is expanded when new locations are discovered. The house is largely dark and deserted, so often light sources need to be turned on to get a better look.
Credits (Windows version)
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|The Fullbright Company|
|Featuring the Music of||
|Original Score by|
|Title Screen Art|
|[ full credits ]|
Average score: 87% (based on 50 ratings)
Average score: 3.2 out of 5 (based on 56 ratings with 2 reviews)
(review is below)
(review is below)
The Bottom Line
United States countryside, a very large piece of estate. It is very rainy; and late in the day: only shadows are out there. Katie is just back from her one year of travelling in Europe; she lives in the estate with the parents and the sister of hers. Will any of her relatives be there to welcome her? They were all missing her much, yet the first to greet Katie is a sheet of paper on the entrance, with excuses for not being there. On the other side, exploring one’s family house undisturbed may reveal much of unknown. Gone Home is a game of exploration, of a large house, yet also of a whole family’s existential condition, revealed by hints and traces all around the building, which, like in any family, reveal while hiding.
It is one product of the kind that is customarily named as “indie” in our time, and we would be able to guess so by the abundance of programming errors and small malfunctions encountered all along the game play experience; these are rather tedious, as they concern gameplay elements, thus annoyances are not a rare, rather a constant occurrence. Besides, we note a certain technical poverty; lighting and sound variations as Katie moves or turns her head to a different direction are managed in such a miser way that one may think a restart is needed, the first one or two times. It is not easy to figure on what grounds they thought to allow only a save file, so that it is impossible to continue searching for hidden secrets after finishing the game and start a new game separately.
As to the banality of the hints and clues the game hinges on, specially those referring to Katie’s parents (the “adults”) seen in fact rightly done; as I see it these scorches have to be banal in order to be truthful. This wants to be and is the story of a common family composed of common individuals. Besides, not all traces of the past Katie encounters speak lightly: here and there, tragedy shines behind the veil of the ordinary.
The slow, minimally perceivable manner lives wreck happens to be pictured very well although at rare moments. Gone Home’s most appreciable side are perhaps the dry precision with which it displays human cruelty and the all-devouring emptiness of any existence that follows, leaving it to no other destiny but essential solitude, and a non-negligible effort in featuring details for the kind of player that seeks for them: there is really many: this game is not poor in all what does not take talent, and for sure not poor in good will.
Windows · by click here to win an iPhone9SSSS (2256) · 2015
I guess I'll simply use the name instead of trying to categorize it, so I'll say Gone Home takes place entirely in one house, but at least the house in question is a sizable mansion with secrets of its own to discover. Also, you can't deny the attention to detail, including in some little ways which other games pretty much ignore as a rule, though there are of course other things that are implemented in ways which can't be called as realistic, or even some that are completely missing. You probably won't notice those though, being used to the approach other games take.
You'll also be able to interact with just about everything you expect and also plenty of things you wouldn't typically expect to be able to interact with, even if most of the time it's merely a matter of being able to pick up items and examine them on all sides. At the very least, that means many objects created well enough to stand such scrutiny even if they don't actually serve any other purpose than making the house seem like an actual home that people live in, or used to until shortly before your return. Plus, a little bonus point for the "put back" mechanic allowing you to set things back the way they were instead of leaving the place as if a tornado came in your wake.
As for the actual point of Gone Home, the story you uncover, it is an interesting one, albeit at a very mundane level, and the same may go for the largely optional side stories about the other family members. Now, I aim for escapism and fantasy worlds and events, so I wouldn't normally have too good of an opinion about something which is very realistic and certain to have happened, in various variants and to a lesser or greater extent, many, many times all over the world, yet... This was all right. More than all right, I'd say, and it will definitely move some people deeply. Sure, will also annoy plenty and leave many entirely cold, but it is what it is.
I also want to make a note about the developer commentary, which you can turn on and then access in relevant spots throughout the game. That's what I did and I definitely recommend it, since I feel that it really adds to the experience. After all, this is not exactly a game, and having that small team of developers behind it explain what you're seeing and why they chose to do things that way, and perhaps pointing out things you may have missed, adds a more direct method of communication between them and you and, if anything, I'd say that makes the experience even more immersive.
Still, they could have made it more immersive in itself by allowing you to actually do more while interacting with all the objects that may be interacted with. Maybe writing or doodling a little with one of the many writing implements, maybe playing at painting for a moment with the brush, maybe washing hands in a sink, maybe taking a tissue out of one of the many boxes, possibly to wipe something, maybe opening some book or magazine, even if only to a title or dedication page or something of the sort, maybe trying to make a call, even if nobody'd have answered... Sure, that'd have added to the development time and costs, but it doesn't stop me from saying it would have been a noticeable improvement for something that relies on realism and attention to mundane details.
Also on this note, they could have had a little more content on the TV and more songs on the few tapes you can find and play, especially since they either worked with the artists or used public domain works, so it may have simply been a matter of adding some more sound files and maybe an option to change sides or fast forward or rewind, which would simply result in playing the file from a certain different point. Again, not something one'd typically notice in a game, but it would have made a difference here... Plus, there is something called Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines released almost a decade earlier which I'd say still sets some standards with the included radio and TV broadcasts.
Otherwise, I may have appreciated more if finding the pieces that form the stories wouldn't be so optional, or at least if you'd be told you missed something and given a chance to go back to find it after reaching the end. As it is, it simply ends, with no other information or chance to go back. Sure, I guess it's another bit that says this isn't exactly a game, but it makes for an uncomfortable feeling and I'd think that if the entire point is to uncover the story, or all the stories, the developers should have done more to increase the odds that you actually will.
The Bottom Line
This was a difficult one to review. Or maybe I should more exactly say it was a difficult one to review as a game, because I find it rather hard to call it one, and in fact it is listed in the Notgames group here, even though I don't see it in the releases list on the Notgames site. Still, it is a way to use the medium and definitely interactive, in fact containing no cinematics and, according to the developer commentary, one single scripted event, so can't call it a movie in software form either.
In the end... It's very short even with the developer commentary, there are no choices, no actual rewards and no loss states, and the few keys, combinations and secret places to find, some of which not even being mandatory, can't make this a game. So maybe I could call Gone Home something like independent theater in software form, where the audience doesn't get to actually influence the play but may leave and come back whenever they want and may pay closer attention or tune out at any moment, and where the actors may explain what they're doing and why.
Again, there's a lot of attention to realistic detail and the story is quite all right and some will deeply relate to it, or in some cases to the more general ideas presented. It also definitely makes points that unfortunately still desperately need to be made in this rotten society of ours. Overall, it is a way to use the medium which I'd actually encourage as an alternative for those interested. At the same time, it's not something I'd personally pay for, so good thing I grabbed it while it was offered for free. You may entirely disagree with this, however... In either direction.
Windows · by Cavalary (11397) · 2016
- 2013 – Best PC Game of the Year
- 2013 – Best Adventure of the Year
- 2013 – Most Immersive Game of the Year
Related Sites +
TrueAchievements achievement guide
The TrueAchievements achievement guide for Gone Home: Console Edition
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Sciere.
Game added August 16th, 2013. Last modified September 1st, 2023.