When my character first walked up the stairs to the mansion, where most of the story takes place, I legitimately thought that I had stepped into a horror scenario. This is partly because of the very peculiar art form, semi-realistic but with a some characteristics of cartoon work, and partly because of the noticeably dramatic lighting as seen in the living room above. As you can see, the artist for the game utilized a photorealism for textures, but stuck with a low polygon count for the actual models. The result is an effect that has to deal with the uncanny, which is to say, it is not necessarily scary, but definitely unsettling.
The story is fantastic. I think the producer had a very solid vision for what he wanted to do with this game. I think the details used to further the story were extremely well placed and meaningful for providing information to the player. I think that the storyline was itself intuitive and accessible but was not built upon simplicity. Overall, then, this work should be placed on a relatively high pedestal, right?
Here is where I find the game lacking and this derives mostly from a comparison with other “video games”. The gameplay is focused almost entirely on the plot, no doubt about that. No story, no “Gone Home”. My problem is that with such an emphasis on the plot of the game, and with such a narrow focus on the ultimate message, the player is only given the illusion of any sort of freedom. Sure, we can walk around anywhere we want, but there is only one way to progress through the game: finding the logical order of notes and journals so that the narrator will continue to tell the story.
There are also some design issues that, compared to other games, Gone Home does poorly. We are presented with only three interactions: walking, picking objects up, and putting objects down. In some sense, these actions may seem repetitive because the character is in a very small space (a house) compared to other games that use scale as a hooking factor. The physics engine that is used to calculate pathing for objects while thrown is heavily inaccurate and feels clunky. The game, lengthwise, is extremely short, about an hour and a half for new players and offers no repeatability since the story remains the same. For twenty dollars, Gone Home offers little to justify its price.
In the end, however, the game seems to hard to push forth its agenda onto the player which limits the developer’s ability to put the player in a position of power, resulting in an intriguing situation but ultimately dull gameplay experience. In some cases, and I certainly agree with this, Gone Home could be called an “interactive cinematic” rather than an actual video game.