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Rating: 4.3/5 (26 votes)
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Home

DoraWow. Haha, what were you doing last night? You don't even remember, do you? You lost your wallet, and... huh... this isn't even your house, is it? Do you even know who lives here?... no? Well... that's awkward. But hey, it could be worse. At least there aren't any bodies aro... oh. Oh. Oh dear. What have you been doing? And do you even want to know? Home by Benjamin Rivers is a psychological horror adventure game that also doubles as a murder mystery... one where you decide the outcome.

HomeUse the [left] and [right] arrow keys to move, and the [spacebar] to interact with items that highlight when you stand in front of them. As you play and explore, the game will ask you questions about what happened. Did you go into the attic? Did you take that knife? What was in the basement? Why can't I hold all these limes? When you're presented with a choice, hit [Y] or [N], but give it some thought first, since all decisions are final and greatly impact the way the story unfolds. Use the down [arrow] to advance the text, and tap the [right] arrow if you don't want to wait for it to scroll into the dialogue window. If you're carrying an item, you'll automatically be given the opportunity to use it in the appropriate location. That's all you need to know. Unfortunately, you can't save your game, but you can quit by hitting [ESC].

Analysis: For a game with such old-school graphics, Home can be surprisingly scary, especially if you play in the dark with headphones like the game recommends. The soundtrack consists of ambient noise that greatly enhances the atmosphere and even leads to a few jumps as you'd expect, but Home is far from being all about cheap frights. It's smarter than that. It suggests things, both through its narration and what you see, and lets it marinate in your brain so you form your own conclusions about what happens. There's a great sense of dread that only increases the more you uncover as you play, which lets Home be scary and tense through subtlety and implication rather than a lot of outright gore and violence.

HomeFor some players, Home's super simplified, slow-paced gameplay might be a bit too frustrating, especially since you're expected to play through the whole thing in a single sitting. It's also on the short side, with the average playthrough lasting somewhere around an hour or more. Where Home excels, however, is in the carefully plotted revelation of its story, and how much of it can change based on how thorough your explorations are. During my second playthrough, I was surprised to see how much I'd missed, and what a big impact finding it had on the experience and even my interpretation of the story. (Make sure to visit the URL at the end of the game credits to share your experience and read the interpretations of other players... after you've played it yourself a few times, of course.) Unfortunately, the current release is a little buggy, with the game occasionally seeming to have trouble keeping track of its many possibilities to the point where it sometimes doesn't register that you've seen or found certain things the way it should.

For its tiny price tag Benjamin Rivers' Home is one of the cleverest, creepiest little bits of interactive storytelling you can experience over and over. While it lasts, it grips you hard, and Home stands as a testament to the sort of great stories a developer and a player can tell together when they try.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

14 Comments

richmcd Author Profile Page June 9, 2012 8:30 AM

Hmm. I'm afraid I didn't really enjoy that at all.

I don't agree that it "suggests things and lets them marinate in your brain" - it whacks you over the head again and again! Surely most people are going to leave the first level (or even the first room!) with a fairly strong notion about what might be going on? The game then piles on so much evidence to support that theory that I found it quickly passed from tense to comic to dull.

Maybe there's a good way to pull off something like this, but I think it would have to be much more subtle. Or it would have to have gameplay that wasn't just various sorts of locks and keys.

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David S Author Profile Page June 9, 2012 9:45 AM

I'm not sure about this one - I really love the atmosphere, but I'm not convinced there really is much substance beneath the ambiguity. I've got to the end twice, and the only explanation that made any sense (ie, didn't have a bunch of contradictions and logical impossibilities) was

That the player had imagined his wife all along.

And that seemed a little like a cop-out.

Interesting experience though. I noticed a couple of things that were different in my two playthroughs:

1) The first time, there was a crashed truck in the road near the factory. The second time, it wasn't there.

2) In my first playthrough Norman had a box full of assorted womens' clothes in his attic, implying that he might be the killer. In the second, it was a box of Rachel's belongings.

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richmcd Author Profile Page June 9, 2012 11:22 AM

Hi Dora!

I accept that I probably missed a lot.

I didn't open the kitchen at the beginning, for example, and I didn't work out the code to the safe at the end. I also don't know what would have appeared/disappeared based on my earlier actions.

And I didn't mean to imply that there was only one conclusion to be drawn. But I do think they're all going to be shades of the same thing. And I think most players are going to be in the right ballpark within the first ten minutes or so of play, and then not get any closer to an answer for about an hour.

I mean I don't think people are going to play the first through areas just thinking "something isn't right here." I think they're going to be thinking, "my character is in some way responsible for this." To my mind, the evidence I found in the middle sections of the game just rammed this idea home without offering any real insight into exactly HOW my character was responsible. It also unfortunately coincided with the two most tedious puzzles, the water valves and the power switches. (Although I guess that may change each time)

Do you think it's possible to get an ending where it would be reasonable to think that

the main character hasn't committed any crimes and isn't suffering from/recovering from some sort of mental illness?

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Fantastic game, I have to think a little bit more about it, but at least I can say, that I like it a lot, because it's more than innovative.

A few things that should be corrected:

While playing it through, it happened to me several times, that the protagonist made some statements as if I hadn't done or seen something before.
Example 1: I have found the girls buried in the woods; after that he wondered where they have went.
Example 2: In Norman's house I closed Norman's eyes, went after that up to the attic, found Rachel's stuff; in the attic "I" wondered, where Norman was, returning to Norman, it was, as if I had discovered him just yet.
Example 3: I opened the letter in the mailbox, where Rachel said, she would go away for a while and end the thing with Norman, she wants to think about everything.
At home, seeing the suitcase "I" suggested, she was running away with Norman, as if I hadn't read the letter."

Now I suppose I'm close to the end, can someone help me:

I'm stuck in the house, have looked at everything possible - and he doesn't want to go into the cellar, until I've checked everything -, except I can't open the safe. My idea was, since I don't remember, having read a number, that the cabinet in the kitchen signify numpads, since the knobs point in different directions like 9,9,8,9,7,6,4,4; but that doesn't work. Can anyone tell me the number?

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No more help needed, I played it through a second time and now the end worked out.

Although:

There was lots of more of this events, that shouldn't be possible, because I did the opposite before. Like I put the gun back into Norman's cabinet, but when I left, the protagonist had it, etc. etc.

After all a very good game!

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Strangelander Author Profile Page June 11, 2012 3:31 PM

I won HOME in the JIG drawing a month ago. I must say, I was disappointed. With graphics this simple and sanitized, HOME's horror or creepiness would have to come from chilling prose and a captivating plot. Unfortunately, the writing is flat, and the story uninteresting to anyone who's watched even one horror movie.

HOME might have redeemed itself with its divergent plot system, except the system is unacceptably buggy, and none of the branches are interesting in the first place.

For pixelly horror, LONE SURVIVOR has more atmosphere in its first scene than any playthrough of HOME. And for pixelliciously chilling plots, look no further than the TRILBY series.

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You're welcome! :D

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Strangelander Author Profile Page June 11, 2012 5:05 PM

Don't get me wrong, I was totally psyched to get the game free! Also, they say that people who pay for stuff tend to rate it higher than those who get it for free...

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I have to admit, I, like Strangelander, have been playing Lone Survivor more than Home. In my case, it's simply the lack of a save system. I was nearing the end of Home when my computer glitched and restarted, and I feel so disinclined to go through that again, doing the same stuff.

Since I haven't seen an ending yet, I can't say for sure, but I still find Home ambiguous enough to be worth it. It's not so much what happened, as how it happened and why, that I'm curious about. Eventually I will go back and play through.

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Wow, I really wanted to like this... I really did. But it's just.. bad. Just really bad. Just very samey, monotonous, dreary, empty, quiet, and boring. Tedious writing, lack of tension, repetitiveness in the exploration mechanics... it's all there to make for a promising at the start yet deeply disappointing game experience by the end.

Not impressed, is what I'm saying. Sorry.

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umber.code Author Profile Page September 3, 2012 9:28 AM

Playing the game for the first time was rather nice. Until I got to the end. Basically it is an anti-climax. You build up to some big revelation which then suddenly implodes into nothingness in the last few minutes of the game.
Obviously it is difficult to make a short game like this interesting enough to make it replayable, so an open end was to be expected. But writing multiple open endings that all satisfy the build up of expectation is near impossible. A good open ending is difficult enough for an experienced novel writer. Suffice to say this game was not created by one of those.

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Not sure if it was done on purpose or as an homage but did you notice the

names of the crossed out girls are Cheryl, Heather, and Rose---the respective girls of the Silent Hill games and movie?

I thought that was a nice touch.

The names might change every playthrough though, not sure.

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Sooo am I the only one who saw the other person ALIVE in the forest?

When you leave the forest, the main character mentions that he can feel something, like someone's watching him. At this point, you think you cant turn back, so you keep moving forward. I moved back and kept walking the seemingly empty trail towards the forest, then i see a silhouette watching me, and he(or she) runs away before i can approach them. The figure doesnt appear again. Ever. Though you can hear sounds in the background and noises implying someone could be watching or following you. The outline is similar to the main character, so I don't know if he's followed by his own shadow, if the true killer is after him, or if its a scary easter egg the developers added to the game. I dont scare easy, and the game isnt as scary as it should be, but it sent chills. I kept looking for that shadow. Hoping something else would happen.

By the way how do you get the passcode option for the iOS?

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