Gone Home seems to be a game that exemplifies the characteristics of ambience. There’s an immediate mystery in the note the player reads at the very beginning of the game and from there on, every sound, dark hallway, and room sparks a new feeling. Interaction with the game is fairly limited with the player only being able to walk, crouch, and interact with specified objects. The game’s story seems to progress through the player’s interaction with a variety of objects throughout the house. Some objects were as simple as a record or coffee mug, but others items revealed striking details about not only about finding Samantha’s whereabouts, but about other things plaguing your family’s lives as well.
Gone Home’s story becomes extremely enticing as the game progresses. Without any prior evidence of who this family is and what values they have, you instantly draw connections between findings in the house. It leaves the player constantly drawing conclusions and verifying or denying them with each new leaflet, notebook, and bank statement found. I found myself slowly descending from thinking the father (Terry) is just weird, to finally stumbling on why he has so much self-loathing. Seeing a letter from Terry’s father attached to his first book saying “You can do better” was really heart-wrenching - and this didn’t even have a relation to the mystery and plot at hand. So many small details about the family’s life are strategically placed in a way that it almost forces the player to start feeling an immense connection and concern for them as a whole.
The player controls the older sister in the family, named Kaitlin. What the game does so well is that it makes you feel what Kaitlin must be going through after being gone for so long. The recent move to this new house, your sister getting older, your parents getting more distant; its things that both you and Kaitlin are discovering for the first time now that you have a fresh view. What’s even better is that the game’s main story is told through a series of diary readings that are voiced over, bringing aural emotional cues into what otherwise would just be text. The game ends with the playing finding the entire diary book, open to the last entry where you find out Sam had run away to start anew with her high school girlfriend. The conclusion bundled with all of the other new discoveries about your mother, father, and relatives was just relieving. The player was given a good enough sense of where things were going while still throwing curveballs every once in awhile. It is a must play for anyone who would enjoy an interactive medium for a great story.
- Max L.