Review – Gone Home (Switch)
Gone Home, of all games released of over the past five years that I had never played before, this is probably the highest rated of them all alongside Undertale. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that, while the game has received near universal praise from specialized media, the user reviews have always been much lower. With a good and pathetic chunk of them criticizing the LGBT connotations in the game, sadly. Yep, that’s the internet for you, folks. I grabbed Gone Home wanting to understand the hype behind it and the quality of its story, and while I admit that the plot and the characters are pretty good, Gone Home is a lot of things except an actual fun game worth playing.
You all know the premise by now. You have just returned home after a year abroad to find there is nobody around. It’s up to you to find out what happened to one of your relatives. It’s quite hard to talk about the plot in a game like this as it’s basically 99.99% of what the game is all about. What I can say is that, while predictable, the story is sweet. It’s somewhat touching and it addresses some thought-provoking issues that, at least for the time the game had been originally released (2012), were very groundbreaking in the gaming scene.
At the end of the day, Gone Home is a piece of software released for actual money on a gaming console, therefore it is and it should be considered a video game, and judged as such. This is where the issues begin.
Gone Home is purely and simply one of the most bland and least interactive gaming experiences I’ve ever played. It might not be as pretentious or downright unpolished as other walking simulators like Tacoma, but it’s so lite on gameplay and so short of an experience it shocked me that it was still being sold for 15 bucks on the eShop.
The entirety of the “gameplay” revolves around exploring the strangely built house in search for what I’d assume is your relatives. But it took just a few minutes for me to realize that the game was more about listening to your sister’s audiologs than trying to unveil a mystery or anything that would actually require puzzle solving and interactivity. You walk around at a very slow pace looking for objects to touch and observe until you find the correct object that’ll allow you to listen to a new audiolog. That means that your job in said room is done. Time to move to another room in order to repeat the process. I kept doing this for a while (maybe a little less than an hour, mind you) until the game arbitrarily showcased a secret door in one of the rooms that basically led to the ending scene.
The only instances of gameplay Gone Home had to offer revolved around looking at objects with, granted, good textural quality as well as solving literally three extremely easy code combinations. Besides this, it was all about walking slowly from room to room looking for letters and VHS tapes from shows and movies released during the 90’s. One little thing I actually liked, though, was the fact that there were some licensed Super Nintendo cartridges scattered around one of the house’s rooms. A nice little touch.
This doesn’t mean the entire game is despicable, though. As previously mentioned, the story is really good, and that is partially due to the fact the voice acting is absolutely sublime. It didn’t feel like I was listening to a voice actress delivering lines. It actually felt like I was listening to a younger sister opening her heart and telling me what she was feeling. That even compensated the few times my ears got violated whenever I listened to a cassette tape expecting a new audiolog or clue, only to be “greeted” by poorly recorded, poorly performed, poorly mixed alternative rock music.
To top things off, Gone Home is also one of the glitchiest games I’ve played on my Switch so far. The game crashed more than half a dozen times during the one hour or so that’s needed to complete it. In two of these occasions, not only did the game freeze, but the entire Switch console froze and I was forced to hard reset the entire machine in order for it to work again. Was this the reason the game got delayed at the last minute? Was it even buggier? If that’s the case, an extra week of even more polishing was most certainly needed.
I won’t deny Gone Home‘s story, while predictable, is sweet. Despite the praise, do I really think a video game was the best means to tell this one hour-long, $15 story? Definitely not. There’s little interactivity, character participation, actual gameplay, and zero replayability whatsoever. I’m okay if a game wants to focus primarily on story, but give us something to do other than walk around listening to a virtual audiobook. I can’t recommend buying Gone Home for yourself, but I can definitely recommend you to go watch a Let’s Play video of it on Youtube, it’s worth it for the story.
By the way, if you’re going to do a walking simulator, for the love of heck program a run mechanic. Thank you.
Well, the house itself might be more of a maze than an actual house, but it doesn’t look bad. The textural quality is also decent. That’s it, though, as there’s not a single character shown onscreen.
It controls fine enough, even though there’s no run button, but there’s little to no actually “gameplay” per se.
Giving credit where credit is due, Gone Home features absolutely fantastic voice acting.
Fun Factor: 2.5
If you can get past the game-breaking glitches, there’s still absolutely nothing to do in the game besides being exposed to a story with no direct participation whatsoever.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Reviewed on Switch.
Gone Home is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.