[Review] My problem with Gone Home: Austin Harpman

Published on February 4th, 2014

A little disclaimer here; this is my opinion of what I thought of the game and there will be 1.34 million spoilers, so it goes without saying that if you have not already played Gone Home stop reading now!

I recall months back when I first heard about Gone Home and all the crazy awards it was racking up, but was to afraid to take the plunge. I, by some voodoo magic, managed not to have the game spoiled for me and knew pretty much nothing about it. So at long last the game went on Steam sale and I decided to jump in and, well… I was in for a surprise.
Immediately I was fixated with the pouring rain and the creepy old house which I was about to enter. I found the hidden key in the front and went ahead and opened the front door to the mansion and it began. Since I had literally no idea what this game was about or even how it was played, it took a tad to realize it was a bit of a scavenger hunt. I honestly was totally impressed at the sense of immersion that Gone Home created. Everything, down to the pitter patter of the rain on the building, creaky floors, made it one foreboding mansion. I soon realized this was not much of a game per say, as more of an experience which to be fair, I knew as much about the game before I picked it up.
I went from room to room collecting letters, notebooks, journals, and whatever odds-and-ins gave me more incite to the story. The basic story is told through audio journals of the main character’s sister who has, as it turns out, fallen in love with another girl. A lot of talk was floating around as to if this would have had the same impact if the story was about a gay couple seeing as a good many gamers are in fact men. I myself think the story was told in very charming way however, because of how the information is collected I was not getting a clear story for the narrative. I equate it to watching the TV show Lost where it was going back and forward in time, and I was barely able to keep events in logical timeline. This however did not wreck the experience for me because I really enjoyed the freedom I was given to explore at my leisure. I was totally convinced for the longest time that when I got to the top floor I would open the door to find the whole family tied up, about to get eaten by either a zombie or killed by murders. There is, after all, a very small subplot about a ghost haunting the house so anything honestly seemed possible!  By the time I got to the end goal destination it finally tied up the loose ends for me. It was a one of those ding moments when I finally got it. The sister at the very end decides to run away with her girlfriend that dodged reporting for duty in the army, (that could be a problem), and the parents are away getting couples counseling… and roll credits. Wait what? Yes, that’s how it ended, and I was rather confused. Did I miss something? As it turns out I missed a lot of things! Since the story allows you the freedom to come and go as you choose it also creates another problem, which was missing chunks of the story. I started back on my last save and realized I had not seen the other half of the house, what upset me more is that the game allowed me to finish the game half complete. After going back and completing the other half the house and finishing the game again I clocked in at a pathetic 1.3 hours.

Gone Home’s biggest problem its length, but more importantly its price. Regularly Gone Home costs 20 dollars on Steam I believe I paid 7 bucks for it on sale. Honestly I felt as if 7 dollars was way more than that experience was worth, and I felt ripped off. Had I paid the full 20 dollars I would have been so beyond irate I would have yelled at Steam until I ether got a refund or store credit. Now to all the naysayers, I understand this was about an experience, and I did get that. It was about the feeling the house gave me, being alone in a big empty house not knowing if I should be scared or happy.  There seems to be a major disconnection with the media and Gone Home, and I point no further than the Metacritic score. Metacritic average is currently at 86% whereas the average user score sits at dismal 5.4. Clearly there is a problem with this number being so wildly off, and I think the discrepancy between the score is down to the value of the game. If the “game” (or interactive story book in my opinion,) is looked at as a feeling, or an experience, then I think it does great. If Gone Home is looked at as a game and compared to something like Halo, we have a problem. Reviewers usually don’t pay for their review copy of the game, and thus may not realize the shockingly high price for such a short game. Whereas the average Joe clearly does know what the game costs when they pay for it. Gone Home was told well, with great voice acting, however in no way could this game be worth 20 dollars for a mere 2 hours of gameplay. I, for example, saw Skyrim Legendary edition for 25 bucks during the Steam sale. Skyrim could easily be a couple hundred hours of gameplay for close to the same price! My opinion is that the game should have retailed no more than 10 dollars, hell I have spent more than 2 hours on Plants vs. Zombies for 1 dollar on my iPhone.

What’s your opinion? Should Gone Home be considered an instant classic, or do you agree with others in that it’s an overpriced “experience” and not a real game?

This review was written by Austin Harpman: Star Wars and food eating enthusiast.


Images courtesy of The Fullbright Company

Gone home currently retails at £14.99 on steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/232430/


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