Horror is not a genre very amicable to the mobile platform. There, I said it. It is just harder, I suppose, to squeeze scares into a tiny device that the user can pocket at anytime. Sure, Eyes and Affliction were both good and scary (if played in the right atmosphere, of course), but those are surely in the minority. Thus, I went into Home, a game categorizing itself under “horror”, skeptical.
Home is indeed a horror game, but not in the manner you might think. Instead of using traditional “horror-game” tactics like monsters, limited weapons and jumpscares galore to get players to react, Home relies almost entirely on atmosphere and exploration, with not a scuffle to be fought. The entire game is just you exploring the game’s pixelated world from a side-scrolling perspective, with only a small flashlight to illuminate your surroundings. It is slow-paced, enticing players to search the environment to figure out pieces to the puzzle of a story, the catch of which is, the plot’s ending changes practically every time you play. If you explore enough, you will discover quite disturbing finds throughout, and the excellent atmosphere only emphasizes the horrors within. Home even manages to squeeze in some good jump scares to keep you on your toes, but it all comes back to the plot, in the end.
Story-based games, of which Home is definitely one, seem to have a fine line to walk. Namely the line between providing good gameplay and providing a driving narrative. Home, when looked at from a purely gameplay perspective, is quite a let down. The most action you’ll find is that of solving simple environmental puzzles. However, the story managed to not only hold my attention throughout, but it also made me want to figure out the answers to all the questions posed.
You always start as a nameless protagonist, waking up in a dark room with no idea how he got there and a recently deceased body on the floor next to him. Yes, it sort of sounds like the beginning to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but the difference between TDD and Home is that Home, despite your exploration and thought that you’ve figured it all out, never gives you all the answers to the story’s mysteries.
At the end of each playthrough, you help your character piece together what he believes happened, by working your way through the items and other stuff you discovered during the main game. Choosing what he thinks about certain items (eg. “Do I think person A killed person B?”) will change the conclusion of the story, but no solution I found ever answered all of my questions. Because the plot can be explained in such, multiple ways, and several playthroughs still won’t give concrete answers to the mysteries of Home, the plot’s eventual solution may be unsatisfying to some (including myself).
However, the plot is still intriguing, disturbing, and has a bit of replayability. I suppose I can live with a few lingering questions, since the experience of playing Home was so interesting.
Oh, also: the sound design in Home is superb. Doors creak eerily, yet realistically, and the other environmental sound effects just might send shivers down your spine when playing in a darkened room.
Home should not be played as a traditional game, with players trying for a high score, or such. Players who try to pick it up for addicting gameplay will be heavily disappointed. Rather, Home is for those opting for a very intriguing (not to mention creepy) narrative that asks you to decipher its mysteries.