(The screens below were captured by me.)
I knew what I was getting into here, a Dear Esther type game, a game that is less game and more of a vehicle-for-a-story. Gone Home, like Dear Esther, has very little in common with modern video games. It reminded me a little-bit of a Sega Saturn point and click game, or at a stretch, MYST.
Gone Home takes place entirely inside of an abandoned house. The atmosphere is eerie and still, but nothing scary ever happens. There are warnings of a terrible storm incoming, it never stops raining and thundering, lights flicker and shadows move, but there are no enemies to fight, nothing to run from.
Game play: You move with W,S,A,D and click on objects with the mouse. You can open a journal with J and see a map with M, that's it.
Gone Home is all about story. Without giving anything away the story here is progressive and refreshing for the medium. It took me about two hours to complete. Would I want to be longer then that? No. I enjoyed the two hours, I was immersed, but after an hour and a half I was looking for the ending.
The game takes place in 1995. There are a lot of things in this home that reminded me of my own childhood (Nirvana, X-Files, Blade Runner, SNES, Pulp Fiction). I enjoyed exploring most of the house. I thought of House Of Leaves as I looked for secret passages and found evidence of teenage seances.
I don't want to talk about the family of the house because that's the whole reason to play, to figure out what's what and who's who. But there are a lot of interesting details here about a mother, a father, a sister, and a few others. You play as Kaitlin Greenbriar the oldest sister of the family, just returned home from Amsterdam.
You're home and everyone is gone. Why? Piece it together.
Then: the load screen as a cassette tape, a voice-mail beep, the rain, the empty home and the first note taped to the first door.
Made by a small team of three people Gone Home is an interesting exploration of what a game can be. More "experiments," like this are welcome in this landscape of Call of Duty.