Each week our resident Indie Gamer Nicholas takes a look at a different Indie Game that you may or may not have heard about. Join him on his adventures as he sifts through the rubbish to find The Indie Game of the Week.
For this week, I decided to shift gears in a very big way. I’m going to be talking to you folks about an adventure game, in the spirit of titles like Myst. Well…sort of. In all honesty, Gone Home kinda defies a traditional genre label. There are no puzzles to solve, there’s no clearly-stated objective in mind, and the only real narrative is that which the player works out on their own.
In Gone Home, you are Kaitlin Greenbriar, and the year is 1995(the game keeps rather admirably to the time period). A college-aged young woman, Kaitlin has just returned to Portland after a year-long trip in Europe. She makes her way into the entrance vestibule, likely ecstatic about seeing her family after so long abroad. There’s just one problem…nobody’s home. The house is completely empty, and the only hint as to where anyone’s gone is a note from Sam Greenbriar, her sister.
“Katie,” the note reads. “I’m sorry I can’t be there to see you, but it is impossible. Please, Please don’t go digging around trying to find out where I am. I don’t want anyone to know. We’ll see each other again some day. Don’t be worried. I love you.
Kaitlin, of course, is curious. What happened to her parents? Why isn’t Sam around? What’s with the nasty storm pounding down on the roof? And why didn’t anybody save Sam bother to tell her they’d be away? The entirety of Gone Home is Kaitlin’s quest to figure out what happened to her sister, based on what was left behind. Along the way, she’ll pick up mementos- bits and pieces of her family’s lives – which hint at what happened in 1994.
Although the primary narrative of Gone Home concerns Sam’s whereabouts (and her relationship with a girl named Lonnie), there’s a lot more between the lines if you know where to look. Why, for example, did the house’s original inhabitant see fit to install a collection of secret passages? What’s the deal with Kaitlin’s mother, and what sort of relationship does she have with her co-workers? What career did Kaitlin’s father ultimately dream of, and what happened to his dream? And what does all the stuff in this house tell us about Kaitlin herself?
I’ll leave it at this: without spoiling too much, the Greenbriars are not a happy family.
There’s nothing driving the player forward save their own curiosity. That might not work for everyone, mind you. This isn’t a game to play if you’re looking for action, a driven story, or a host of brain-teasing puzzles. Gone Home is a game, first and foremost, about exploration, and about the occasionally heart-wrenching tale of a young girl in the 90’s discovering she’s not quite ‘normal.’
If that sounds like the sort of game you’d enjoy, feel free to pick it up on Steam. It’s a bit steep, at $19.99, but for me, it was well worth the price. I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not it’s your kind of game.
Next week, I’ll be playing Orion: Dino Crisis. Should be wonderfully absurd, no?