Home Review

The interactive story Home is both wonderful and aggravating in its vagueness.

The word "home" may bring to mind the warmth of family and the comforts of the familiar, but the side-scrolling adventure game by the same name offers no such respite. Home is a very short, very inexpensive experiment that is simultaneously intriguing and maddening in the way it builds tension only to leave you with more questions than answers. You might return to it multiple times hoping to fill in the gaps, but ultimately realize that the game wasn't really telling you a complete story--you were telling one to it.

That concept might sound nonsensical, and explaining exactly how the player is as much of a storyteller as the game risks spoiling part of what makes playing Home a worthwhile experience. Suffice it to say that it plays with narrative expectations, even though it initially seems straightforward enough. The protagonist wakes in a strange home with no recollection of what brought him there--but a few encounters with dead bodies, bloodstains, and abandoned weapons make it clear that the circumstances are grim. You move this highly pixelated character through highly pixelated 2D environments, interacting with doors, ladders, and objects as you (and him) try to piece together a growing mystery.

Well, it's not as simple as all that. Home has a "choose your own adventure" element in which you make simple decisions on the part of the protagonist. Pick up a knife, or leave it be. Watch a videotape, or let well enough alone. It's not always clear what impact these decisions might have at the time, and in fact, it may not be any clearer what the impact was once you finish. That ambiguity is both Home's best and worst asset. By not shining a light on every facet of the story, the game leaves you to ponder some of its more poignant questions, some of which arise by the language and verb tenses used in the (text only) dialogue.

A trusty flashlight is your main source of illumination.

But that same ambiguity that stirs your intellect can also frustrate you. After a single play-through (an hour or less) leaves you pondering the meaning of it all, you might jump back in, only to find that your second attempt raises even more questions--and that there might not be any "real" answer at all. In its final moments, Home suggests that your choices might not have been "right," yet should you heed the subtle prompting to play again, you discover that subsequent plays diminish the overall experience. The game effectively builds tension on the initial run-through, even proposing that you turn out all the lights and don headphones while you play. Unusual creaks and distant thunder claps make for an eerie atmosphere, but aren't so effective when you return; you're likely to just rush through after your first attempt, trying to manipulate the story rather than soak in the ambience.

Even the first play-through can reveal a tension-breaking quirk: the dialogue might not adjust to your decisions properly, leading to absurd moments in which the game doesn't acknowledge key events. Yet for all its idiosyncrasies, Home is a daring attempt to make what happens in your own head just as important as what happens on your screen. When you think you have answers, it plants seeds of doubt; you can play multiple times and still share the lead character's befuddlement, which is an impressive feat.

Defeat your fears and climb the ladder: you won't know what might be lurking up there until you do.

Yet that same repeated confusion can lead to unfulfillment as you turn over events in your mind, hoping to make sense of them. If you think all good mysteries should offer their own solutions, Home may feel like hollow entertainment. But by allowing you room to interpret, Home keeps you intellectually engaged even when you aren't playing it, and that's a triumph worth celebrating.

The Good
Intriguingly vague choose-your-own-path narrative
Chilling atmosphere pulls you in
The Bad
Story's vagueness can leave you frustrated, even after multiple plays
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

3 comments
oneEnigma
oneEnigma

this "game" is a absolutely joke if you look at it getting promoted as a horror game on its official site. The horror element is over after around 5-10 minutes with it and the game itself is about 40-60 minutes long. Now i personally didnt pick this up on steam because i wanted a horror game, but mainly because i was intrigued that it could be the 2D point and click type of adventure i had never seen been made. The problem is its neither, the games story is weak and predictable and doesnt really offer incentive to replay it since the interaction/decisions are so weak and few. The gameplay is basically just going from a sewer to some suburban house with little variation besides finding a couple of items/notes.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

I wasn't anywhere near as impressed with this game as I could have been.

Yes it's simple and yes the world is quite beautiful despite the resolution being lower than any game I've ever played, and yes the story does pull you in and intrigue you along with the atmosphere, and yes granted it is "unique".

But the fact is, it's incredibly shallow.  Sometimes I felt like that's all this game was.  Just a bunch of atmosphere and nothing else.  You get practically no answers, you can collect items or not depending on what you feel like, you can leave an area sooner than you're supposed to without being allowed to return... with no negative consequences.  The games just goes on and on with absolutely zero clarification or sense of progression.  You just go until you stop.

Fans of the old Silent Hill and Resident Evil games will praise the hell out of this game, but only because they're not thinking straight.  They'll see no flaws in it because it's reminding them of something else they liked once.  And when it comes down to it, that's all this game does. It reminds you of something good.  You know how some people say "Getting there is half the fun"?  Well disappointingly with Home getting there is *all* the fun, in fact despite being totally average as a package, it is far more "fun" than it has any right to be. 

SHlTSSOCASH
SHlTSSOCASH

this was the worst game i've ever played in my life.

reminds me of a children's show. hmmm there's a dead body. hmmmmm a familiar gun. hmmmmmm i'm covered in blood. hmmmmmmmm my leg is hurt. hmmmmmmmmmm someone who's been to all these places and used all these things has done everything i've done and killed people. i wonder what could have happened. hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

borrasj
borrasj

Awesome. The indie games never stop amazing me

DThrasher
DThrasher

The short version: Absolutely fascinating. This is not a game that sets out to relax and entertain you. It aims to make you think. You have to do the work of creating the story. So in that regard, it may not even be a game at all. Or if it is a game, you're the one being played.

 

Ears14U
Ears14U

I've played it, and was not impressed at all. More of a pain in my backside.

jrfess
jrfess

I'm wondering just how many of you 'reviewers' played the game? You're all saying that it APPARENTLY goes retro just to be retro, that the reviewer SAYS that the story is questionable, that it LOOKS like they put the graphics before the game. Well why don't you all PLAY the game, and then write a review. You can have your own opinion, as long as it's YOUR opinion, based on YOUR experience, not someone else's.

hall0559
hall0559

I think this game is fantastic and well worth a couple bucks. If you like the graphics style and are open to ambiguous storytelling and some mild creepiness. It's great.

CrysisFPS
CrysisFPS

I've noticed some of you have rather negative thoughts over this game, so please let me enlighten you. You are, of course, entitled to your personal opinions, but please listen to why I personally was truly compelled by the game.

 

While I am in full agreement that Lone Survivor is a technically better title, there are some things about this game which are more superior.

 

First off, it has a story which gives the basic answers in the end (at least the ending which I received) while still leaving some things free to interpretation. Not only that, but you, in some way, get to create that story through the choices you make. LS gave you many choices as well, but left some plot elements far too vague even for my taste. At least in Home, it wasn't too big a challenge to draw conclusions to my own questions without the game explicitly 'telling' me.

 

Secondly, this is not a game about striking gameplay, it's about story and atmosphere. Why do you really need more than environment/object interaction, in order to analyse your surroundings as well as solving progressive tasks? If anything that would just destroy the game's subtlety, and experience has taught me that true suspense is not the result of too much happening or too much to do, it comes from steady pace and design without over-doing those stretches.

 

OK, my essay is over. Like I said, I'm not trying to attack anyone's opinions, I am simply trying to point out the reasons for my opinion, just like others have done their own. I also hope I might have given some people more insight and reason to enjoy this game.

k3ck
k3ck

This game is average at best.  I'd suggest you get Lone Survivor (on Steam) over this.  It's similar in style but much better.

GameYakuza
GameYakuza

so I played Home and... it confirmed all my fears. the very basic art design really hinders the immersion, and only the sounds do something distinctive. the gameplay is inexistant, the only interactions are the items you pick up, without any clue on their influence. finally, the story doesn't go anywhere and worse, it's unconclusive and literally leaves the player to sort it out.

 

now for a rant about all the shows/games/movies that have very confusing storylines, throwing random elements around. they NEVER end up with a satisfying conclusion, and most of the time writers do not even bother with one (see Lost, where the writers admitted they had no idea what most of the plot elements were supposed to be). it is just a cheap routine to pretend there's something bigger going on.

quixote88piano
quixote88piano

I grew up on NES graphics, and I LOVED the NES and still do. I truly appreciate its graphics and old-style feel. Nevertheless, I am convinced that when a game has graphics this primitive, this bad in this day, it's an attempt to hide the fact that the designers are clueless about good graphics. They cowardly hide behind the neon "nostalgia" sign. We are well past that era. What about an appreciation for progress?

To those who claim that the poor graphics allow the story to shine, I still call the bad graphics a smokescreen and nothing more. A game can tell a good story AND have excellent graphics. The greatest games do that. Besides, the reviewer tells us outright that the story whimpers in "Home."

chikken21
chikken21

I'm still loving this retro graphics kick and I'm not even that old. I just think less importance on graphics means more importance on the experience and the story.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

I love the comeback of oldskool games, but this is just retro graphics for the sake of retro graphics and the game looks so tedious!

 

For an example of oldskool done to perfection, I recommend Wadjet adventure games (Blackwell series and Gemini Rue).

Atheosis
Atheosis

The retro graphic trend is getting annoying already...

cheese00701
cheese00701

 @SDSkarface WTF just beacuse a game doest look like COcDk doesny\t mean its a bad game geez try it before makeing an opnion -_-

SDSkarface
SDSkarface

just like minecraft i refuse to play this game for one reason alone. The graphics. damn how fun it is.

GameYakuza
GameYakuza

I really like these minimalist games, but I have two problems with this review. first, it feels like they went a bit overboard with the graphics and it could have looked better while keeping the pixel style. second, at the two hours mark, it's more a glorified flash game than a full release. sure, 2 bucks are not much, but I try to be coherent with my purchases and what I get for my money. it's just the same as paying 10 bucks for a 4-hour game, I feel ripped off.

 

so this game feels like a missed opportunity. I'll still try it, but no matter the budget of a game, it feels strange every time a developer invests to create a full software, only to make a very short game.

Avaniar
Avaniar

Hey Kevin VanOrd, Sir, I had some of the problems you mentioned about dialogue not make sense sometimes. my suggestion is play version 1.2 or 1.3 that's coming out in a week or so. It's supposed to have such bugs already corrected.

SgtStrungOut
SgtStrungOut

I can't believe people are actually whining that this game does not have realistic 3D  graphics. Seriously, go outside if you want to look at something pretty! You can easily tell who the new inexperienced gamers are from the experienced old school gamers just by reading these comments. If you are that superficial to limit yourself from playing a game based on looks, then that tells me something about you.

LatinproX
LatinproX

This game takes me back to the days when I played Flashback or Out of this world on my 3DO and stayed up until morning.

Jdod1
Jdod1

where can i buy this?

 

itchyflop
itchyflop

im liking the old look of some of these quirky games. I like the difference from the mainstream of gaming today, seems to catching on with some developers and gamers alike. Its a bit like having a coke in a pub on Friday night !!! 

hall0559
hall0559

 @jrfess My review is up right now if you want to read it.

BlazeODU
BlazeODU

 @chikken21 I think people are just realizing that pixels have become less of a retro thing, and more of a stylized art thing, which is good, because pixels ARE stylish when used right. =)

Diarma10
Diarma10

 @AtheosisIt appeals to an older audience. I can't get enough of it, as it - at least in theory - tries to put gameplay before graphics, but as in this case it looks like this did not come off, but it looks worth a try.

branko777
branko777

 @SDSkarface i am with you on that one. the graphics looks miserable. the graphics is not everything, but it is a very BIG deal. games (like movies) are visual entertainment in a first place. if someone doesn't care about graphics, they should read a book.

Speuj
Speuj

 @SDSkarface To each his own, man!  You're allowed your opinion and I won't blast you for it even though I disagree with it considerably!  =)

BlazeODU
BlazeODU

 @uncleTACO8873 you wanna see a terrifying pixelated game? play Lone Survivor, that game is even MORE shit your pants scary! o_o

CrysisFPS
CrysisFPS

 @GameYakuza Have you maybe tried 'Thirty Flights of Loving', that game lasts only around 15 minutes yet it cost 5 dollars on steam. I think 'Home' is well worth 2 dollars.

ToughCritic28
ToughCritic28

 @GameYakuza So a game that costs 2 dollars and provides you with 2 hours of entertainment is a ripoff?  You and I have very different styles of money management.

 

beardednun25
beardednun25

 @Avaniar Interested in buying this...maybe... think you could help a guy out here and tell him what platform it's for? Thanks

Kane04
Kane04

Flashback was amazing, I actually had it for sega genesis and super nintendo. It was way ahead of its time IMO and I'm glad I'm not the only one that remembers it.

@LatinproX

GameYakuza
GameYakuza

 @mitsabushimivec that's actually not comparable (and I won' t support crappy movies anyway), there are distribution costs for physical games, or a movie ticket, but how do you decide the cost of a digital copy? it cost almost nothing to distribute it, so given an audience large enough, a game could be profitable at any price. the 10$ price mark for an indie game I mentioned before is an example of the companies trying to establish standards for this new business model. 4$ for a digital movie rental is the same,  it's the result of market studies for what price would SEEM reasonable, and not what it should be. in othere words companies prefer to keep prices high, rather than widening their audience.

 

concerning this game, I explained why it still feels too expensinve, even at 2$: they could have set a nice art style while sticking to the retro feel but didn't, and the game is just way too short. I play games on kongregate all the time and some of them look better and play longer than home!

GameYakuza
GameYakuza

 @ToughCritic28 yes, first I think a good game must have a balance between quantity and quality, I hate starting a game, only for it to be over when I was really into it. second and as I said, they could have easily developed a much longer game. that's why I love the humble bundle so much: widen the audience instead of the price. for some time, it feels like editors tried to push a 10$ price for indie games, and THIS is a ripoff.

Avaniar
Avaniar

 @beardednun25

 hey just saw this now, it's just a plain PC game. Once you buy it, you get a link with an exe file. Since it doen't have a save feature, it doesn't even require installation. I think the game actually has very good graphics for the indei genre. As to the gameplay, it's a text-based thing basically. it's fun for 2 bucks, don't expect a whole lot (if you're trying for more action i'd say lone survivor).

GymFox
GymFox

 @Kane04 Good god! Comments about Flashback?? Amazing! That was my favorite game for a really long time... Have to say, IMO one of the hardest games I ever played. 

Home More Info

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  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Home is a unique horror adventure set in a beautifully realized pixel world.
    6.6
    Average User RatingOut of 73 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Home
    Developed by:
    Benjamin Rivers
    Published by:
    Benjamin Rivers
    Genres:
    Action, Adventure, 3D, Open-World