A harrowing journey through the human psyche.
By Stephen Heller - Bio
What HOME Got Right
|+ Atmosphere is chilling
||+ Audio is pitch perfect
|+ Open-ended story is gripping from start to finish
||+ Interesting blend of adventure genres
What HOME Got Wrong
|- Creates more questions than it answers
||- No save feature can be bothersome
2012 is the year for pixel horror titles; we've already had the intense Lone Survivor this year, and now Benjamin Rivers throws out his flavour of horror/adventure with HOME. While the two games may share the same art style and genre, that's where their similarities end. HOME is unlike any other horror game we've experienced, whether that be for better or worse.
Check out the official trailer!
You wake up in a strange house, the thunder and lightning rattling through the windows of a strange house. Your leg is hurt, you have blood on your clothes and you have no recollection of how you got there. You stumble through the house, searching for any clue of where you are and how you got there. That's when you see him, a man laying face down on a rug, motionless and with a pool of blood surrounding him. Your heart starts beating faster as panic takes hold. You have to get out of there. You have to get home.
Those are the opening moments of HOME, and it gets a lot darker from there on out. Your nameless protagonist is thrust into this situation, and Benjamin Rivers has done a remarkable job of creating a true sense of fear. The adventure only lasts for an hour or so, but those 60 odd minutes are gripping from start to finish. On your journey you'll be stalking a number of creepy areas as you try to learn what happened, how these events are connected to you, and where your wife Rachel is. It may seem like a fairly typical horror plot, but as you slowly progress, it becomes apparent that something truly sinister is at play here.
Every footstep, flutter, clank and door opening will have you looking over your shoulder, looking for an answer to your questions.
What that something is on the other hand, is never truly apparent until the final moments. There was one particular section fo the game where everything simply clicked, and I wanted to press on to prove my theory correct. Then the game throws a huge curveball, that will literally leave you with more questions than answers, as you try to decide what actually happened, and what your role was in all of it. It's a novel approach, and at first I'll admit that I was a little angry that there was no resolution. Then I looked onto a link provided at the end of the game and I realised what Rivers was trying to do.
Based upon the evidence you discover on your journey, you are left to your own devices to work out an ending that suits you. The game provides a URL upon completion where you can head on over and share what YOU think happened to the protagonist, his wife and the supporting characters that you encounter. You can then check out what other people are thinking, and that creates a rather interesting point of discussion. There are hundreds of theories out there, and it really has you questioning what happened. It's brilliant, yet also dibilitating at the same time.
The pixel art is inviting and frightening at times.
HOME embodies one of the best pixel art styles we've seen, with rich colours and a true 16-bit feel despite the dark and gloomy horror theme. The visuals are brought to life thanks to absolutely stunning, yet minimalistic audio. Every footstep, flutter, clank and door opening will have you looking over your shoulder, looking for an answer to your questions.
The game plays out like a classic adventure game of yesteryear with some twists. There is no dialogue - the entire story is told via dialogue boxes which fill the entire screen, often giving you a choice of Yes or No. You will come across items in the world which you can pick-up or leave behind, and doing so will often present you with more evidence or different perspectives depending on what you are carrying. The same can be said for examining items; if you manage to watch a hidden VCR tape or you skip it will have a huge impact on how you answer the questions presented to you at the end of the game. There dialogue sequences are often harrowing - here's an example:
"Two bodies -- two young women -- were half-dug into a hasty, shallow grave between the trees.
The younger-looking one was still face-up, her dead eyes gleaming against my flashlight.
While HOME may offer a great story, superb audio and a crazy open-ended story, there is one feature it does not offer - save games. The game only lasts an hour or so to completion, and while that's not a lot I actually had to play through the opening sequence 4 times due to interruptions or the need to leave mid-game at times. While this probably won't be a huge problem for the majority of gamers out there, the lack of a save game feature was a minor annoyance in an otherwise gratifying experience.
The Final Verdict
It may be short, but HOME attacks the very fragments of your mind to deliver a story that is gripping and perplexing. What actually happened is largely up to your own interpretation, and reading what other people conjured up as reasons will give you plenty of excuses to come back to the game and explore other theories. It's an interesting social experiment, one that Benjamin Rivers has pulled off with subtlety. If you're open to trying a new kind of adventure, you should definitely spend the $2 and enjoy one of the most unique games of 2012.
By Stephen Heller - Bio