From indie game developer Benjamin Rivers, comes a horror experience that pulls players into the depths of a murderous plot that is shrouded with mystery and deceit. Home is a side-scrolling game that puts players in control of how the plot will unravel itself. Players are completely on their own as they embark on a journey into the mind of a killer to shed new light on the mysteries that await them.
Players will begin their campaign after a string of horrendous crimes and will have to back track to unveil the motives and identity of the killer. After awakening in a large manor with a vague recollection of prior events, players must scavenge through the bloody aftermath to reassemble their broken memory and discover the dark truth of what has taken place in their mind’s absence. As the story progresses, players will begin to find clues that give a greater insight to what exactly took place and how they are involved in such a predicament. The story quickly turns from bad to worse when the protagonist learns that the violence was of a more personal matter.
Home is a game full of murders and mysteries and relies heavily on the choices a player makes. What I found to be unique about the story is how it adapts to the players as the decisions they make begin to alter the direction of the plot. The overall conclusion of the plot will depend on how a player perceived the clues as they applied them to the mystery.
The game is broken off into a number of environments that range from a creepy forest to an abandoned factory. Each environment is broken off into a sort of “level” that prohibits further exploring after a player chooses to advance to the next area. Throughout these levels, players will come across clues and crime scenes that sometimes present difficult decisions that will weigh heavily on the outcome of the game. For instance, when interacting with an object, players are given the choice as to whether or not they wish to take it with them or leave it be.
Acquiring an object may assist in later interactions, but may also affect how the story plays out. If a player happens to overlook a particular item, it will play into the story as if it were to never exist to the protagonist. As far as he is concerned, that item was completely nonexistent and wasn’t his to find. However, the absence of that item may leave a void in the story as it can directly influence the discovery of a vital piece to the puzzle.
Once a player leaves an area to move onto the next, they will be presented with a narrative text that provides a recap of the decisions made in the last level. This not only gives players a chance to reflect on the clues they have found and how they relate to the mystery, but also gives insight to the important clues or actions that may have been overlooked.
In Home, players control the only character that will be seen throughout the game. It may seem a bit lonely being the only character in the game, so don’t fret, you won’t always be alone. The presence of other characters will be hinted at through environmental actions such as frantic footsteps or whispers. Played with my headphones at full volume, I had a hard time staying in my seat when an unseen being made their presence known.
Meant to be completed within a single playing session, Home takes approximately one hour to finish. With the replay value of the game being as high as it is, a one hour play through may seem quite generous when considering the number of different ways the game can be played with a variety of outcomes a player can achieve. I know that pounding out an entire game in a single session may seem excruciating, but, being as condensed as this game is, I found it to be just as easy as sitting through a full-length film.
To urge the completion of the game in a single sit-down session, Home doesn’t include a save or even a pause feature. Although this may seem completely inconvenient, the exclusion of these features serve a very special purpose. Picture yourself playing your favorite story-driven game. You are captivated by the story and, although eager to see what happens next, you decide to save the game to continue your journey at a later date and time. By saving the game for future continuation, players pull themselves out of that immersion they had in the story. Home aims to diminish this habit by delivering a game that is condensed, yet very satisfying.
The graphic style in Home is very simple, but when merged with a descriptive text, the atmosphere is brought to life within the player’s imagination. Every time an object is interacted with, a text bubble appears that defines that item with vivid detail. For instance, instead of plainly describing the object as “a body” or “a knife”, the developers elaborate on the description to paint a picture for the players. So when interacting with the remains of an NPC (non-playable character), a player might read about a “pale skinned man whose lifeless gaze sends chills down the spine.” Or how the body of the man is doused in blood that has leaked from various stab wounds to the chest and neck. I found the descriptions to complement the graphic style of the game perfectly. The simplicity of the design combined with animated text gives players the opportunity to envision their own nightmare in the way that they perceive it.
Though simple, the graphic style in the game adds to the overall mysterious and frightened moods that one may feel while playing. Taking place in the dead of night, the surroundings resemble the eeriness of a variety of locations. The colors are of a more somber and dark palette, deeply contributing to the dimly lit areas that stretch out to the reaches of the glow that radiates from the protagonist’s flashlight.
Home has managed to keep me on edge for the entire story. Constantly anticipating a knife in the back or randomly walking into another nightmarish room of gore, I can easily say that my time spent in the game has removed any doubts that I had about how much of a horror game this would be. My directions were to “play at night with all the lights off”, and doing so had me checking over my shoulder at the sign of any imaginary threat.
Although Home allows for a number of replays, each differing from the last, I found the horror aspect of the game to slightly diminish after the first play-through. Once I complete my first session, I was no longer surprised or spooked by what was taking place because I was already familiar with practically everything that will happen. Players will be running through the same areas as before, but may be making different choices or looking for an object that was missed in the previous play-through. Basically, with the death of the horror aspect came the rise of the mystery and investigation aspects. Don’t get me wrong, the plot was mysterious all along and required quite a bit of investigating, but after my first play, there were some questions that were left unanswered. It wasn’t until my second or third play-through that I had finally made sense of unresolved mysteries. Each replay presented new clues and additions to the plot that gave a better understanding of the areas that I had previously questioned.
Home has delivered itself as a worthy indie game that grants players the means to play and discover the story however they will choose. For an uncomprehendingly low price of $2, this game is absolutely worth the pocket change that it costs. Home is out now for the Windows PC and can be purchased here.