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I think everyone can relate to the desire to go home. Regardless of it being after a long day of work, or after just a night of fun, people always have a drive to go to their sanctuary where they are the master. This is exactly what Home tries to convey, however adding a slight wrench into the story. In Home, the main character wakes up in a strange place, completely unaware of how he got there or what has happened to those close to him. It is precisely here that Home entices the player to play on, pulling on the natural curiosity of man, dragging the player straight into the retro world that houses its hero.
Speaking of the world of Home, it will be the first thing any player notices. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on the player’s preference, this will make or break the game. It takes the retro arcade-style graphics to heart, making everything incredibly pixelated as a means of style. Of course the graphics could be better, however the graphics are deliberately low-fi. Coming from a background in my SNES, this is perfect for myself or anyone else from the 8-bit or 16-bit age. Many find this an obtrusion into the game as a matter of principal, stating when graphics can be better they should be. And while this game is trying to look older, it managed to drag along a few of the problems that come with pixelated images. For instance, in one section of the game the main character is finding his way through a forest, needing to interact with the background to move between sections of the map, much like doorway interaction in the rest of the game and other games. A problem arises however, when it is difficult to distinguish these spots, especially if it is a player’s first time through the game. These are the problems of antiquated appearances, although with the technology available, these problems shouldn’t be so obtrusive.
The appearances are only half of the presentation, however. The other half is the story itself. Within the storyline is where the game tries to shine, and does with success. The story is told through written narration from the main character as he tries to find his way from his starting point in a strange and dark place, ultimately to his home and the center of the mystery. The narration of the game is decided by the player’s interaction with the environment. Throughout the game, there are options to pick up objects or leave them, creating a reflection of the player within the tale, manipulating the overarching story much like the wildly popular The Walking Dead game also does. While this is very entertaining in that the story feels as though you are actually living it, the ending’s open-nature may also be hit-or-miss for a player. The ending isn’t really there. The game itself ends, however the story trails away, leaving the player to decipher the true meaning behind their choices and the results. It achieves true mystery status by not giving a concrete finish, yet can be frustrating to those looking for answers.
Home is a great effort by Benjamin Rivers, and is a beautiful experiment into narrative storytelling through video games. The story is well done, giving the player a feeling of complete control, without sacrificing a feeling of reality. The soundtrack is perfect for the environment and doesn’t fail to keep the atmosphere at a creepy level. While this game isn’t the game that will be talked about for generations, or perhaps even 6 months from now, it is something worth the hour that it takes for the game to be completed. And at only $2.99, the investment could pay out poorly and not hurt pockets quite like many of the large publications that come out.
If you enjoy horror games, or storytelling where you have a say, Home is worth the small amount of time it asks for. It won’t be the best game you play this year, but it won’t be anywhere near the worst, and I look forward to what Benjamin Rivers has to offer the video game community in the future.