The product of indie developer Benjamin Rivers, Home is a horror game that will keep you thinking about it long after it’s over. The kicker here is that there is no explicated storyline in the game–it’s up to the player to decide what happened based on clues in the environment and the protagonist’s dialogue. While some may argue that this approach to plot makes for an ambiguous and unfulfilling experience, it is this conceit that makes Home so unique.
To attempt to explain in detail how the story operates runs the risk of ruining the suspense. Simply put, Home’s gameplay revolves around finding items and discovering clues in the game world that explain, amongst other things, how you ended up in a strange house with a corpse by your side. During your quest for answers, you can choose to pick up or leave various objects that may or may not have played a role in your current predicament. It’s up to you to decide how much weight these objects and subsequent revelations hold, and if your initial reaction is even true or not. As you play, you’ll find yourself analyzing every detail about the world and everything the character says in an effort to untangle the web, and this is where Home shines.
Home’s retro graphical style fits the atmosphere of the game well; the low-grade graphics give the player greater freedom to imagine the protagonist’s facial expressions, mannerisms, and reactions to events. This furthers the game’s ultimate goal of letting the player create the plot. The atmosphere is uniformly dark, dreary, and depressing. You’ll crawl through sewers, a nighttime forest, and an abandoned factory, among other locales. Real scares are few and come in the form of sudden sound effects, but they serve to heighten the tension. The fear in this game come from the knowledge that you will likely never discover exactly what transpired, and that you may or may not be to blame for the atrocities committed.
Replayability in Home stems from its open-ended nature. The intellectual engagement you’ll experience as you play is the game’s high point. After the story ends, you’ll find your mind running over what you found and debating whether or not you arrived at the correct conclusion. The game even invites those who finish the story to a forum where players explain and compare the conclusions they reached. If you’re the type of player who likes to tease out every facet of a story and attempt to solve a potentially unsolvable mystery, then Home offers exactly what you want. If you’re someone who plays a game once and then is done with it, or the type frustrated by opaque plots, then Home might not be for you. At 60 to 90 minutes per playthrough, Home might be too light on content for some.
Home is a game not easily forgotten. Whether you love it or hate it, you’ll agree that its take on plot is unique and attention-grabbing. The gameplay and the graphics are simple, but in their simplicity they highlight the most important aspect of the game: the player. Home is what you make it, and if you love to untangle mysteries, then this game is for you.
This review is based on a review copy of the PC version of Home by Benjamin Rivers