When a friend first recommended the game Gone Home to me, I thought it would play a lot like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. First person, no weapons, mystery, spooky. I went in expecting it to be a carbon copy that was set in 1995. Instead, it showed me something I'd never seen before in a video game.
It seems to play more like a mystery novella than a game. Not to say that that's a bad thing at all - I enjoyed every second and played it in one night, because I simply had to find out what happened next.
You play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a young woman who's been out exploring Europe for the last year. She comes home to her family's new house, only to find that her parents and younger sister aren't there. It seems to start as a hunt for your character's missing family, but over the course of the game, becomes a look into the life of a '90s teenager.
There may not be any monsters to fight, and there may not be much in the way of traditional puzzles, or even other characters, but the game still manages to be an enchanting, intriguing game. It doesn't need monsters and things to drive the story on or keep you interested - the environment does that for you. You walk through an old, large house, picking up and looking at receipts, books, food - anything you'd find in a regular house, really. You can even pick up the useless items and move them if you want, allowing you to interact as if in a real house. What's solely environmental in most games is the entire focus of this masterpiece, and it works surprisingly well.
I found it delightfully surprising that the game includes the story of an LGBT teenager - an area that mainstream games won't touch with a ten foot pole. We see Sam's life through her sister Kaitlin's eyes as she searches the house for clues - finding posters, mix tapes, school assignments, and most importantly, journal entries. You also learn more about the parents as you go, although their stories don't take precedence.
Overall, adventure game Gone Home is a right breath of fresh air. We're surrounded by first person shooters and action RPGs - and I love them as much as the next person - but when an interactive story-game like this comes up, it's quite a relief. It's a relief to see characters who are regular people with incredibly relateable problems. This game is probably especially good for those recently out of or still in adolescence; you have problems with parents, school, relationships - and you'll never be alone when you do. There will always be someone there for you, and you should stay strong in your convictions.
It's a pretty short run through, but it's still the best game I've played this year. The controls are simple, the environment is easy to navigate without being boring, and you'll spend the whole time wondering how it all comes together. My vote? Pick it up if you can, you won't regret it.