Monday, November 24, 2014

Great But Brief Pixelated Horror With A Changing Story Makes Home Great - The Take Your Time Review

Quick Note: Home is short and sweet, with a good twist on horror stories. The way the story builds (or doesn't build) based on your decisions is very unique, and it's short length merits multiple playthroughs either on your console or handheld, just make sure it's with headphones and in the dark.

The horror genre has grown quite a bit since it has permeated visual mediums. There are now multiple sub-categories, from gore fest horror stories filled with buckets of blood and enough dismemberment to turn you stomach, to survivor horror, where the biggest fear is not having the supplies to survive. Some where outside of these bigger categories lies the subtle horror, where the biggest fear is what you can't see, and that is where Home lies. Filled with mystery and a distinct lack of visuals and sound, Home leaves the scary parts up to what you can imagine, which makes it a fantastic game to play for all fans of horror.

Created by one man team Benjamin Rivers, players wake up in a house they don't recognize and no memories of what happened. From there, it is up to the player to figure out what exactly is going on by exploring with your flashlight to find items and clues. 

That's all that can be said directly about the story without spoiling anything, but what is more interesting is how the story unfolds. It is up to the player to find items and locations to help expand the story, which allows the player to shape their own story. The more items you find, the more details that are filled in, which can help lead to the definitive solution to the main mystery of the game. However, by not picking up an items, or skipping over some optional areas, the narrative changes, becoming more ambiguous and leaving room for more options as to what exactly happened. 

You flashlight is also your viewpoint, and it is not very big.
Most games have touted this type of story building, but few can pull it off as well as Home does. I can safely say that playing through to get the multiple ending has lead to very different conclusions. This system of multiple playthroughs is helped by the short length of one run, which should take players roughly 45 minutes to an hour to beat the first time. 

The pixel graphic style helps bump up the creepiness factor significantly. I have always felt that an individuals imagination can make something simple ten times scary, and that is definitely the case with Home. It also helps that the game has a zoomed in view, making you feel like you can only see right on top of your characters view (which is a small halo around him that the flashlight shows). 

The big scares come from the excellent sound design, or lack there of.There is no background music within the game, and seeing as the main character is only talking to him/herself the whole game, there's no voice acting. The sound effects are sparing, but hit the spot when you hear them. The players footsteps coming down the stairs and the sound of water rushing through the background help build the tension to a peak until *BOOM* and that bump behind the door scares the hell out of the player. The tension building and scares are well timed and, for the most part, unpredictable, which is essential for a good horror game. 

The pixel art is perfect, and leaves some of the gorier scenes up to your own imagination
For all of its merits, Home is not for everyone. There is very little gameplay outside of exploring areas, finding items and just experiencing the atmosphere and the story, which will turn off anyone looking for a deep gameplay experience. Though the pixel art helps tremendously, there are plenty who are not a fan. The length may also turn off some people who are looking for a very large, meaty experience.

However, for every fault Home has, it's strengths overtake them. With a unique story building system that changes dynamically simply by what the player chooses to experience is fantastic, and the aesthetic and multiple playthroughs make it a shining example of how to do subtle horror the right way. For a sweet low price, cross-buy for PS4 and PS Vita and the perfect length, Home is a great game for fans of horror and anyone interested in a short, unique game. 

8.0 out of 10

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