On Home

I didn’t like Home.

There are lots of reasons that I didn’t like the game, and in my traditional “look, this is where I’m coming from” preface to every post, I want to tell you these things: I enjoy survival horror games. I enjoy adventure games. I understand where Home is coming from. I understand its video game genealogy.  It is also a short game, and since I’m digging on short games so hard right now, I thought I would pay my $2 and play Home.

The game begins, like so many other horror games, with the player character waking up somewhere that he doesn’t recognize (and it is often a he, sadly.) By walking through hallways, the inevitable sewer, and being a witness to the invariable garbled video tape and dead body, the player character comes to some kind of peace with the world he is in. Cue credits.

I just described the plot of so, so many horror games, and Home is no different. I would speak more specifically to the points of the game, but I don’t want to spoil it for those who still want to play it. The game is so short that giving out even small amounts of the plot would be giving away a small part of the story that someone might care about.

The draw of the game is based in the combination of the pixel/retro look, the horror genre, and the story itself. As the copy on the Home website says:

Awakened by an oncoming storm, you open your eyes to discover yourself in a strange, dark room—tucked away in a house that’s not yours. As you play the game, it changes—subtly, almost imperceptibly—to reflect your perspective. It’s a horror game unlike any other, and as you’ll discover, its truths are entirely subjective.

The “changes” in the game seemed mostly blunt to me, with the actions that change the course of the story being clearly telegraphed to the player so that she can make the “right” decision, or at least one that makes sense. The “subjective truths” work in the same way. There is a point in the game where the player is asked, via [Y/N] prompt (spoiler here if you want to see), if she thinks that certain events happened or not. The ending monologue to the game (which feels like a cop-out in a lot of ways) is directly influenced by your answers to these questions.

GLTCHD ran a preview of the game, and talked about the dynamic ending of the game as “meaning Home could be the genesis of some really exciting “what happened to you?” type discussions post-release.” Coming out of the game, I can’t imagine I would care about how other people ended the game. Subtly allowing the player to influence the narrative of the game is different than allowing the player to very clearly decide how the game plays out; the former is like dancing with a partner, while the latter is bludgeoning with a hammer. There’s no grace in it.

Beyond that, there are basic issues with the game’s programming that shouldn’t have made it into the final release. The final monologue contained references to things that my character did not see or do, and there were multiple spelling and grammatical errors in the text boxes that the player is constantly assailed with.

That said, there are some things I enjoyed about the game. I did feel real tension initially, and I do think that the text boxes, which cover the screen and force the player to read them, are a good innovation for this style of game. It evokes silent films–I like that.

So I didn’t like Home, but you can always check it out for yourself.

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