June 24, 2013 2 Comments
A couple of months ago I reviewed a game for iPhone called Year Walk, and stated my opinion that I don’t think horror can be done properly on a platform like iPhone. Well, a few days ago, a fairly popular PC indie made the jump over to iOS, and it happens to be a horror game. People were telling me “even if I think you were wrong about Year Walk, you have got to try this. It really is scary.”
No. Home isn’t really scary. It’s creepy. It does creepy well, but I feel there’s a difference between that and scary. The basic idea is you play as Conan O’Brien (that’s who it looks like, and until someone says otherwise, I’m pretending it’s him) who wakes up with no memory of how he got to where he is. His leg is injured and he has no idea how it got that way. Oh, and there’s at least one dead body nearby. I don’t know why he’s so fussy over it. It’s basically how every Sunday morning begins for me.
All of this is told through a pixel-art point-and-click adventure. If it sounds interesting, you’re right, it is. The problem with Home is that it’s one of those fireworks where you light the fuse and nothing happens. It took me all of five minutes to guess what the big plot twist would be. Was I right? I don’t know. The solution to what happened I guess changes depending on how many clues you find throughout the hour-long play-through. At the end of my session, the game saw fit to give me no ending at all. It didn’t crash or anything. It just ended with no resolution. Conan walked to the final door, some text pondering the nature of what just happened popped up, and then BAM, credits. The fuck?
All choices you can make happen in the form of questions. Like if you find a knife, the game will ask you what happened in a past tense form. “Did you pick up the Knife? Yes/No.” Here’s the weird part. Near the end of the game, I was asked if I thought one of the other characters in the game was the murderer. I said no, because all the clues from the get-go said otherwise. But now I’m mildly curious whether that would have become the solution if I had said yes. Not so curious that I’ll play through it again. Once was enough.
The thing is, there’s no actual game here. You walk, you click stuff, and stuff happens. There’s no real puzzles to solve besides typical lock-and-key stuff. At most, you might have to hit a switch. So while the graphics are pretty good, the atmosphere hits the mark, and even the dialog is well done, Home is actually kind of boring. Mechanically speaking, at least. It tells a story well, but it’s not a game in the strictest sense. It’s a visual novel where paragraph breaks come in the form of having to walk around trying to figure out where to go next. It does very little to take advantage of the medium, and that’s a shame. Unlike a lot of misfires I deal with here, I can’t chalk this up to poor writing or over ambition. It’s just a dull game.
One last thought on the whole “multiple ending” thing which I’ve never been a big fan of. Here’s why I’m against it: because I don’t know if I’m going to end up with the same ending if I play through again. I played once and the end result was NO ending. I felt I played pretty well the first time. I clicked everything. I backtracked occasionally to place items where they belonged. What the fuck more do I need to do, Home? Well whose to say if I do things differently that I won’t fall into that one and only trap that sets off the exact same ending I just got? If a game is going to base itself around having multiple endings, it needs to set up a way to take advantage of that besides “replay the whole thing again.” Especially stuff like point and click adventures, which just don’t lend themselves to multiple play-throughs. My usual way around this is to simply look up the other endings online, but as it turns out, a game called “Home” isn’t the most Google-friendly title.
I was a bit on the fence about this one. On one hand, I think the game successfully achieved its goal of having a well written story with genuine suspense and chills. On the other hand, the gameplay is boring and the hook requires multiple play-throughs, which will certainly mute those chills and shrink the suspense. I’ve spent more time trying to figure out if I liked Home than I spent actually playing Home. For that reason, I can’t recommend it. The deciding factor was if I had a magic “undo” button that would give me the hour I spent playing it back, would I do it? I can quickly answer that: yes, because the ending sucked. Results will vary by player, but for me, I felt borderline cheated by the ending I got. It literally had no closure at all. Every single question left unanswered. That’s just plain stupid. If the power had gone out while I was watching the series finale of Lost, I probably wouldn’t have called that a brilliant ending. Though in retrospect, that would have been an upgrade.
$2.99 admits that I hate replaying games anyway and thus the odds of me playing through Home again was probably slim to begin with in the making of this review.