Home: an indie horror game

A few weeks ago, my brother kindly gifted me a game from my Steam wishlist, because he is a love like that.

It was Home by Benjamin Rivers.

It’s a beautifully atmospheric pixelly thing, which creates a really spooky atmosphere through sound, confusion and limited visibility. Who are you? Where are you? What are you doing? What have you done?

I spent about 40 minutes playing this. I will have to play it again. It’s a very simple thing, old school adventure style, you wander from place to place through doors up stairs down ladders through gates – investigating various items along your way, piecing together a story, somehow. You get the feeling you’re adding two and two to make two and a half.

The items you do or don’t collect, the areas you do or don’t investigate, the choices you make, the places you go – they all lead to a final conclusion. Based on what you’ve pieced together your character comes to some conclusion about what has happened and what he needs to do next. You get the feeling he’s kidding himself.

At the end, after the character’s final monologue, you are prompted to tell your story of what happened. At this stage I threw a few words down about what my wife did and what I did about it, then pootled off to see what everyone else had written.

I was surprised to see such variation – this was where I realised how much I hadn’t seen, and how many alternative conclusions there could be. It’s not clear, of course, whether all these conclusions are prompted by the game, or how much has been extrapolated by the players. I’ll have to play again, perhaps several times, to find out.

Will I? I will definitely play again, but I’m not sure if I’ll play again more than once. There’s a fair bit of corridor trekking and basement/dungeon diving – and tap turning. None of this felt annoying the first time round, but I’m conscious that some aspects may not be too conducive to several playthroughs. This may say more about me though – I don’t have huge amounts of time in big chunks, and since the game will not allow you to save, insisting on you completing it in one sitting, I may struggle.

I was surprised to see so much negativity in the discussion board on the Steam game hub – it seems several people found the game boring and plotless. I don’t agree on either count. Several people declared it “not a game”. That seems particularly odd to me. Yes, I have a small penchant for really non-game super-pretentious art-wank games, so perhaps my bar for what constitutes a game is hung in a particularly odd position – but Home contains everything I’d expect in the most harshly defined “game”. Interactivity, outcomes, choice, narrative. What is missing?

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