By Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee on June 22, 2016
Every month, PS Plus members can download a couple free games. This month, there were two games that available for the PS4: NBA 2K16 and Gone Home. Since I utterly suck at sport games (and am much too short to play basketball anyway), I decided to give Gone Home a whirl.
In this first-person exploration game, developed by independent video game studio The Fullbright Company and released for Windows, OS X and Linux in 2013 and for Playstation 4 and Xbox One in January 2016, you play as Katie Greenbriar, who has just returned home to her family’s house in Oregon after travelling through Europe for a couple of weeks. But instead of finding a nice welcome home party, her family home looks abandoned and has a definite lack of the thing that gives a family home its name: a family. And on top of it all, a huge storm is building up, so it’s might not be such a hot idea to hang out on the porch! Ok, time to get inside for some hot cocoa.
Well, I can tell you that I didn’t find hot cocoa in the house, or even cold cocoa for that matter. The house itself is positively huge and has more rooms than is strictly necessary. Katie’s parents seem to be doing pretty well for themselves. Her father failed at starting a successful writing career and now makes his living writing reviews on various electrical appliances. Her mother, on the other hand, is in the business of protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats, and just got a huge promotion. And then, there’s Katie’s younger sister, Samantha, or Sam for short. Sam is eighteen years old and had a hard time getting adjusted to high-school life after the family moved to Oregon.
The house is big, nice and clean, but her family is nowhere to be seen. Naturally I’ll go and check out all the rooms, looking for clues. There are a lot of rooms and in every room there are a lot of cupboard, closets and drawers for you to inspect. And because Katie’s family just moved into this house, you’ll also find a number of unpacked boxes. Now, the funny thing about this exploring is the fact that you get the overwhelming sense of: “I better put this back where it belongs”, after you’ve inspected an item. Normally, I would tear through a house like a tornado through a trailer park, dropping stuff left and right and, generally speaking, creating a giant mess. But the fact that Gone Home features a house where people actually live, I noticed that I was being quite a bit more delicate with things I found while rummaging through the family’s closets and drawers. Sure, you could turn the entire house into a pigsty, with every object you find thrown on the floor. But then again, why would you?
And this rummaging actually is what you will be doing most of the time. Your main task is to explore the house and check every piece of furniture for clues on your family’s whereabouts. By reading letters and postcards, looking at photo’s and listening to messages on the answering machines, I start to slowly unravel the mystery of the Greenbriar family's mysterious disappearance. Bits and pieces of the story about what happened when Katie was on vacation start to click together and form a picture of past events. The pieces of information you find, tell you all about good times, failures, marriage, school and other every day stuff. And because the game is set in 1995, some of the nice details might just bring back some memories of your own. A Stephen King book, the video cassette of the movie Pulp Fiction and the Nintendo game Street Fighter; these are all just examples of things you might find around the house that remind you of the time when you were young. If you are young right now, imagine playing a game in 20 years that features a Playstation 4, Xbox One or Wii U console.
Almost every bit of information you find, seems to somehow revolve around Katie’s little sister, Sam. She is very important to the story, so her memories are actually narrated when discovered. Without spoiling the whole story for you, I think only a rock would not be touched by Sam’s emotional story. I think a lot of you can relate to the feeling that a younger sister, brother, cousin or whatever has a hard time and all you want to do is protect them from all harm, take the pain away and make everything better. But, alas, you can’t always do that and that sucks! The developers absolutely nailed that feeling in Gone Home.
Besides a tear jerking story, Gone Home also has a continuously ominous atmosphere; there’s always that feeling that something bad is going to happen any minute now…any… minute… NOW! No? Damn, I was sure something was going to happen… Oh well! Creaky floors, lights that are turned off throughout the seemingly abandoned house and the sounds of a giant storm raging outside; Gone Home has “jump scares” written all over it. When I started playing the game, I had no idea what to expect, so I was constantly watching my back, expecting a hideous creature to jump out of the shadows and attack me.
But, as it turns out, I was thoroughly mistaken; Gone Home isn’t that kind of game at all. No, what it really is, is a tale about being young, being confused, making choices, being misunderstood; in short: it’s a wonderful story-driven exploration game that is not afraid to touch some of the more delicate issues in life. Gone Home really is a moving tale about life and its sometimes complex nature and deserves to be played by everyone who loves the genre. Come to think of it; Gone Home deserves to be played by everyone who loves a good game. Period!