Home review: A horror game with a twist
You awaken in a dark room, your clothes covered in blood, your memory a blur. You begin your journey to get to the safety of your home and wife. What lays ahead of you is a bloody trail of death and clues to what may have happened. Who is responsible for all of this? How did you end up in that dark room with blood covered clothes? Who is the murderer? The only way to find the answer to these questions is to piece together all the clues that you find on your way home, but sometimes things are not always as they seem.
A Unique Adventure of Player Interpretation
Home is, without a doubt, a unique game and is in no way ashamed to admit it. It even states it on the title screen. What makes this game as unique as it claims to be, is its story. A story that the developer was very brave to use in the development of a video game; particularly for an indie title.
As you progress through the game, you find various items which are clues to the events that occurred prior to the beginning of the game. With each item, you have a choice as to whether you take it with you or not. This choice has its own consequences.
After finally reaching your home, exploring it completely, and finding the last clue, the player must then for a second time examine the items scattered throughout the house, the same items they had gathered during their journey. Each item then offers a choice of either yes or no, each decision shaping the story in a different way.
After making a decision for each of the items you found, only then can you leave the house and reach the finale, which is revealed to the player via text. The thing is no matter what ending you get, you receive no true closure to the story. Instead, it is left up to the player's own interpretation as to what exactly happened. Once the game has finished the player can then share their own interpretation with the rest of the community on the game's official website.
It certainly is a neat idea, and unique, but having such a story mechanic can lead to mixed feelings. Whether the player will like the overall story mechanic or not is really dependent upon their personal tastes.
Personally I do not like stories that end with the player having to interpret what happened. I prefer one that offers me closure. But that doesn't mean that Home is not a good game.
Exploration with Little Build Up
The game-play of Home revolves around the exploration of each area and attempting to find as many clues as you possibly can. It isn't mandatory to find every single clue in the entire game. The more clues that you do happen to find, the more choices are available to you to shape the story into your own.
Most clues are found by simply progressing through each area, but a few are a little bit more hidden and require a certain item to gain access to where they are. There is also one point in the game where you get a choice of taking two different paths, each containing its own clue. Once you choose which path to take, you cannot return to the take the other. They are one way only. This gives the player a reason to play the game at least once more to see how each clue changes things.
While playing the Home, however, I found there to be very little build up. There was nothing to liven things up until the very end, which left me having to push myself to finish the game.
There was none of the slow horror building that causes a game to get more intense as it progresses. There are no instances that left you sitting on the edge of your seat, biting your nails bracing yourself for what is about to happen. It just simply isn't that kind of game.
A Pure Sense of Loneliness, Ruined by Cheap Jump Scares
Home has a great atmosphere which really gives the player this great sense of loneliness. It's perfect for the overall design of the game. There is you - and only you - and the atmosphere really reminds you that this is the case. The only thing that is there to keep you company is that of the bloody trail that you are following.
An unusual thing about Home is that there are also a number of very cheap jump scares that occur from time to time, like a loud noise or a valve breaking and steam bursting out of it. I am in no way a fan of jump scares at the best of times. I don't find them scary in any shape or form, but here they just feel so out of place and unnecessary.
The reason for this is that the particular style of horror that the game is going for isn't jump scare material. Here the horror is in not knowing what happened prior to the game's start and the feeling of being alone and confused. When the jump scares happen they make me lose my sense of immersion and it takes a few minutes before I get back into it. I feel it would have been better if the jump scares were left out. They ruin the experience for me.
You will either love this game or hate it.
Home certainly delivers on its promise in being a unique adventure but is one of those games you should really consider before buying.
It is one of those games where you either love it or hate it. There is no being in the middle. Personally I really didn't enjoy the game at all. The story mechanic is simply something that I do not like and the lack of build up and slower more basic exploration is simply not to my tastes.
If you are similar in tastes to mine, chances are you will not enjoy Home. If you prefer a story that is open to interpretation, along with slow and basic exploration as gameplay, then chances are you will enjoy it. All in all, whether you love it or hate it, it is still a good game that is solid and delivers what it promises.
Home is available to buy on Steam for €2.99. It is also available for iOS, PS Vita, PS4 and Mac on their stores.