Note: This is the first videogame I've posted a review for here at Dirkflix. While I've played many games, some with interesting stories, since starting this blog, the purpose of this site doesn't really lend itself to games in general. However, I'm making an exception here because, as you'll soon read, this isn't really a game and more like a story you walk through. Also I'd posted this to my FaceSpace page and figured, why not toss it here as well? Booyah!
Just finished "playing" Gone Home. The reason for the quotes is because it's not really a game as much as a guided interactive narrative story. You are a 21-year-old girl who's gone home (heh) in June 1995 from a lengthy trip across Europe to find the huge family home empty with a note on the door to not look for your younger sister.
As you walk around you can pick up objects (most are irrelevant) and read many, many notes and letters; listen to cassettes; hear what seem to be audio diaries from your sister as she tells a tale of her falling in love. As you discover secret passages and learn about supposed ghosts, the tension builds and the "game" frequently gets spooky.
While game critics have fallen all over themselves to shower Gone Home with effusive praise, a LOT of gamers are hating on it pretty hard. Part of it is because many gamers are caveman mookheads who are used to shouting profanities at their Madden Warfare peeps and a story where you aren't the real protagonist that deals with grunge-era riot grrrls and middle-aged marital and life troubles doesn't interest them.
A greater part though is that it is an extremely short experience, taking no more than 2-3 hours to complete. For a game that retails for $20 - it's currently $5 on Steam; I got it for $3 on a Flash Sale - that doesn't really have you do much more than walk around looking at stuff, that's a hard sell. (The excellent Spec Ops: The Line is another example. It takes about 6 hours to beat and at $60, that's a terrible deal, regardless how good the story is. However for the $6 I paid on sale, it's a must-play.) Other than a couple of locked areas that need combinations to open, there's almost no "gaming" in Gone Home.
I was fascinated by how they laid out the story and understand why screenwriters I've heard talk about it enjoyed it. While it sets out a clear trail for you to follow, it relies on you to pick up the crumbs and understand the loaf they fell from. (OK, that's a yellow card for terrible metaphors there.) I think I missed a few things judging from the reviews and videos I looked at elsewhere; I never found one safe's combo. The way some things are scattered around are clearly for storytelling than logic's sake and the way the sister's journals are presented doesn't make sense until the very end and even then doesn't make total sense.
That said, if you can pick it up for cheap (like $3) and you understand what you're signing on for (i.e. not a GAME game) and you want to hear some Bratmobile, then you might want to give Gone Home a home in your home's game collection. (Suck it, Gene Shalit!)
Score: 7/10. Play it.
UPDATE: After writing this I remembered that there's a Commentary Mode. I haven't played it yet, but will update the review if/when I do.