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PC Review: Gone Home

I've forgotten in recent years how much I love the world of PC gaming.

Yes upgrading your hardware every couple of years can be quite damaging for your pockets, (my Commodore PC springs to mind), but the vast collection of games on offer and the endless possibilities of modding and extending your favourite games makes the whole experience of a PC gamer a lot more satisfying, than say the console owner.

I’ve only recently started to get back into playing PC games, mainly because I have a brand new spanking laptop that can actually play something besides solitaire as well as my growing excitement for the upcoming Steam box as mentioned in Laura’s article the other day. All of this has me enthralled once again.

With my desire to get back into the PC scene, I found myself trawling through the Steam store one night, when I suddenly came across a certain little gem called Gone Home.

Gone Home is quite unique, I’ve never experienced anything like it before! The point of the game is to explore and this is what makes it so appealing to me. I love the kind of games where you’re just able to go off and explore to your own devices. It’s the reason why I love sandbox games such as GTA so much; where I can go off to find sunken alien ships or the early Final Fantasy games that had a world map to venture into, getting that golden chocobo if I so chose. With Gone Home however the entire game is one big exploration. Exploring the eerie surroundings, examining any kind of object you can find, reading scraps of paper scattered around and uncovering the secrets and the so called mystery of the game.

The first game made by The Fullbright Company, using a first person engine; the story revolves around the player in the role of Katie Greenbriar; a girl who has been backpacking across Europe and has eventually returned to the family home late one night. Once inside the house Katie realises something isn’t quite right, the house is empty and there isn’t a family member in sight. It’s left to you, the player, to explore the house, room by room uncovering the story as you move onwards. As Katie is left to explore the family home, the player is soon introduced to the other central character of the game, which is Sam, Katie’s younger sister.

With Katie exploring the rooms of the house and reading newspaper clippings, report cards, invoices and school diaries, the story of Sam begins to unfold to the player within the confines of the dreaded house, except, there is no real feeling of dread at all, it’s more of a metaphor representing a certain characters situation, presented by the ominous thunder outside the house, the creaky floorboards as you walk down the long dark hallways and the popping of a light bulb when you flick on a switch. The musical score adds to this tension, a feeling of isolation beckons throughout the household, occasionally interrupted by Katie, listening to her sister’s Riot Grrrl cassettes.

As the player I really didn’t know what to expect when first entering the Greenbriar home; was there a mystery to solve? Perhaps something terrible had happened here and it was my job as the player to uncover it! Instead I was presented with something a lot more endearing and rewarding than I expected; a sweet story with a lot of heart.

The game itself doesn't have the most impressive first person engine I’ve seen on the PC compared to the more common engines we’re used to seeing today. But if you’re able to run the game in its full spec, it's still above average and the details that have gone into the interactive objects scattered throughout the game are show real care and attention.

The only issue I had with the game was it's steep price tag on Steam. At £14.99 for a game you can finish in about 2 hours if that, it's asking for a bit too much. But if you’re like me and fancy something different to all those shooters and prefer your games to pull on those emotional heart strings now and again, then it might just be worth it. If only to think back on the game like I did; as the memory of it really does last longer than the experience, but I guess in life that’s the case with all good things.

Overall: 8/10

Tom France

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