Gone Home (Switch) - Review
Condensed Video Review:
While I have been playing a majority of games on the PS4, what I love about the Nintendo Switch is that they are re-releasing many older games as remasters, adding more games to their e-shop, and porting games that don't traditionally come out on Nintendo consoles. One example of a game I would have most likely never got around to playing is the title Gone Home, originally released in 2013. It was recently released on the Switch on September 6th, almost 5 years from its initial release.
I came into the game knowing as little as possible, only being aware of the accolades it has received. I encourage anyone who still hasn't played the game to do the same, and will keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. It's own website described as a story exploration game, which is an apt description. The game focuses on an immersive storytelling experience that is hard to put down once you begin. Each time I played before bed, expecting to play an hour, turned into 3-4 as I became emotionally invested in the characters. Even after managing to put the controller down, I would think about putting the pieces of the story together in my head.
Not to say that this is a puzzle game either. It is as it describes itself, an exploration game. You come home to an empty house that your family recently moved into, and it's your job to find out what's going on by exploring the house yourself. If I had to compare it to something, it reminds me of older games like Myst or point-and-click adventures, where you click on items in hopes of finding clues about where you need to go. However, this is definitely not a puzzle game, and you can actually rush through this game in less than a minute after your first playthrough. Using the 1st person perspective effectively for immersion, the game seems simple on its surface, but is amazingly deep and is more effective at storytelling than most games I've played.
In total, I spent about 10-15 hours, between three playthroughs. The first time I was a bit underwhelmed because I cut through a lot of the content. On the second playthrough, I went into completionist mode looking to find every detail of the story. Even on my third playthrough which, I did with added developer commentary, I was still finding more information that gave me additional story tidbits and appreciation for the game.
This game is one of a kind and exemplifies why I love games. I've become accustomed to games holding your hand leading you from one checkpoint to the next, not needing you to think. This game has a mature rating, but don't let that get you thinking that this is meant to be a scary game. There is something innately scary about being in a house by yourself not knowing where everyone is and your mind starts running to conclusions. There are many one-off events that are used extremely well to keep you on your feet and subverting expectations. The story does ultimately deal with mature themes, but these are universal themes that everyone goes through in life while feeling intimate and personal.
I could go on and on about various themes of the game, the complexity of the characters, the sound, and level design, but these are all things that you should experience yourself firsthand with as little spoilers as possible. I'll leave that for a future post.
The game is $15 and available on virtually every platform now. The Switch version does contain modifiers to the game that you can use on your first or subsequent playthroughs. These include the developer commentary option I mentioned earlier or others such as starting with all the lights on and unlocking all doors from the beginning. The game looks and plays great on the Switch, both docked and handheld. I preferred to play the game in the docked mode as I found it easier to read the various text, which I found to be a little small on handheld mode. Other than a couple of bugs, such as the game freezing after trying to resume the game from the start screen or items not properly opening, the game plays well without any major issues. You are given only one save file, so you will need to override your data if you start a new game. This doesn't end up being a problem, taking into account the length, the nature of the game, and the included modifiers.
In my experience, I've never played a game quite like Gone Home and I think it's a masterpiece for what it aims to do. Like other great games, it inspired me, and having the developer's commentary round out the experience was a satisfying end. It might not suit everyone's taste, but I enjoyed every second of this game and it will probably still be lingering in my mind a while longer.
Thanks for joining me for this review. Let me know in the comments below what you thought of the game or another indie title you would recommend.