Wow. 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.
Use 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.
For 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.
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