As you can probably tell from my ebullient review over at Slant Magazine, I loved Fullbright Company’s Gone Home. Though I admit that some of the initial flush of enjoyment stemmed from nostalgia for my own teenage years (the game takes place in 1995), the game holds up after sleeping on it, and though I don’t share the exact experiences that echo throughout the game–a narrative that I can’t talk about without ruining the game, since the point is to figure out exactly what is going on in this familiar but strange home you’ve returned to–the character building (from liquor bottles stashed on bookshelves to futile attempts at rediscovering oneself through watercolors) is easily to relate to without relying on simple stereotypes. Gone Home acts like a horror game–your family moved into your recently deceased uncle’s manor while you were away on a one-year trip through Europe–and there are plenty of references to supernatural entities and psychotic denizens, but doesn’t rush you through the exploration of the house with scare tactics or cheap thrills (unless the sound of lightning terrifies you). In other words, the atmosphere of the game is earned, and maintained by not dwelling on out-of-character puzzle sequences or other familiar mechanics that inflate or otherwise get in the way of a purer narrative.
I’ve probably said too much already, so let me emphasize instead that although $20 is a lot to pay for a game, especially one that’s only a few hours long (depending on how many of the nuances you pause to soak up) and has little replay value once you’ve “gotten” it, you have to treat Gone Home more like an interactive film/novel, and given the unique experience of walking through such a lived-in set of shoes, it’s ultimately worth the price.