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Review: Gone Home by The Fullbright Company/Unity

Review: Gone Home by The Fullbright Company/Unity

Gone Home Logo

Gone Home
by The Fullbright Company / Unity
Console Game
2016


Gone Home is a first person adventure exploration game, first made for PC but then later developed for consoles. You play the game as 21-year-old Katie Greenbriar who has just returned home from travelling abroad. But it isn’t the home she left; it’s unfamiliar and peculiar despite being filled with everything she has ever known and loved, apart from one thing. Her family.

You start the game standing in front of the house, the lights off and a note taped to the door. Nobody is home. Once inside it’s time to explore and discover where the family has gone. Within the house you can interact with every light switch, open every drawer and pick up every book. It is one of the most interactive ‘point and click’ games I have played and thus enjoyed.

During the gameplay you learn about Katie’s family: Sam Greenbriar (sister), Janice Greenbriar (mother), and Terrence Greenbriar (father). What the family home lacks in life, it makes up for in notes, diary entries and snippets of clues that elude to the reason behind the missing family. As the game moves on, the house’s sinister past is revealed. A storm batters the windows. The TV is stuck on static.

The true control however, is in your hands. As the player it’s your job to decide what is and what isn’t important in finding what’s happened to Katie’s family. Hints and narrative guide you towards the next point but ultimately you choose where to go, how long you want the journey to last and for how long you are willing to get lost in the mystery.

However, if you are someone who likes clear direction and a linear narrative then this probably isn’t the game for you. On more than one occasion I became frustrated, not knowing where to go or what to do. The confusion of which clues to follow and which to ignore coupled with the seemingly never ending sands of time, leads to a feeling of restlessness. At times, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of objects that I was able to interact with in the game, in some ways giving too much freedom. After a while, I listlessly threw some of the objects around the room before getting back on track with the narrative. The lure of the dark, brooding house brimming with secrets and bodiless voices is a failsafe way to draw you right back in.

What is so compelling about Gone Home is the way it pulls you slowly into the story. The narrative is fully immersive, created by handwritten notes, answer-phone messages and the unsettling sounds of an abandoned house. In addition, the storyline and characters have been well devised, from the sass of Sam to feeling sorry for Terrence all whilst turning corner after corner in the darkened house.

It’s messy, it’s complicated, and full of secrets. After all, what’s more intriguing than someone asking you not to go digging around for answers?

Gone Home is available for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

Review: Adam Cadre’s 9:05

Review: Adam Cadre’s 9:05

9:05
by Adam Cadre
Interactive Fiction / Text Adventure
​2000


9:05 is the third interactive fiction published by Adam Cadre. It is, in his words, “a standard intro-to-IF piece” and the public opinion seems to be the same. If you’re looking for a way into interactive fiction, take this path.

9:05 harkens back to days where games like Zork were all the rage, complete with all the fun (read: frustration) of unrecognised verbs and pedantic wording. It may be quite a short game with maybe 10 minutes for your first playthrough (depending how fast you pick up on how to phrase your commands) but the multi-ending nature of it means you can play it over again.

The narrative of 9:05 places you in a bedroom, being awoken by the phone ringing. You are informed you’ve slept in too late, and given a description of the room you’re in. What a typical situation. You’re late for work, which might quell your enthusiasm to continue reading. But trust me on this one and bear with it.

You must answer the phone, and you can look around the room before cleaning yourself up and getting out of the house. Whilst in the house, there’s little you can do to affect the ending but looking around gets more story details and helps you to understand some of the endings.

Once you leave the house, however, you’re given a bit more freedom – you can choose to take certain exits on the freeway, etc. This does mean, though, that you tend to rush through the inside of the house on replays because you already know what you’re doing, and there is certainly room for more branches adding from the very beginning.

Those who tend towards impatience will often find themselves barely skimming the descriptive text and thus missing clues as to the ending they’re heading towards. Even though the sentences are stripped down to the bare bones of description, the game tends to repeat itself or you’re scanning just for the information you need right then (especially when you forget if the bathroom is to the north or south).

Cadre has almost no voice in this piece (only when telling you it’s probably a good idea to go through the tutorial first) but it’s clear he’s used to creating these interactive fictions (IFs) (no mistakes in there still being a Pop-Tart on the counter after you’ve eaten it).

One of the best things about 9:05 is the community that surrounds it. Though you can’t interact or view others’ results, it’s such a popular and well-circulated game that almost anyone you encounter who’s dabbled in IF will know what you’re talking about. Then there’s that shared smugness of knowing about the game’s secrets versus those people who haven’t read it before or gave up because the late for work trope put them off.

For all that 9:05 can put you off initially with the complicated commands and run-of-the-mill storyline, it’s not what you expect it to be. Cadre certainly knows how to put a twist in the tale and divert a reader’s expectations.

In short, if you haven’t already – whether you’re new to interactive fiction or not – try 9:05. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

You can find 9:05 and Adam Cadre’s other works at http://adamcadre.ac/if.html.