Home & The Journey Home
Hunting monsters and criminals, escorting merchants, serving as a bodyguard...they all conjure up vivid images. Raius, however, puts a much different and welcome twist on the everyday medieval hero in a pair of interactive fiction games, the first of which is entitled simply Home. Your escapades are described entirely through text, merged with prompts of which actions to take or simply to examine the omnipresent fire burning brightly in the game's namesake.
Use the arrow keys to move back and forth, and the 'E' key to interact with people and various objects. You can also click the mouse to scroll through and advance text - but don't skip through it too quickly! Take time to smell the roses and the err...boar pelts. It is highly recommended to play the games in sequence: Home first and The Journey Home after.
But back to the story: if home is where the heart is, both seem like a ghost town. One day you spot a notice of an alchemist offering a large sum of coins in exchange for shelter. You find that you enjoy each other's company, and soon meet more. After learning that she can sometimes cure illness, you become keenly aware that one of your client's daughters appears infected with something. The raucous townspeople seem madly intent on whatever it takes to get rid of her, but you know there must be a more ethical choice.
In the second game, you play again in a similar setting as a different character. I won't specify who to avoid spoilers, but it is a very specific link between the games, and picks up where Home leaves off. In this sequel, Raius tacks on several scenes requiring some basic platforming to help complete an objective, whether it be gathering ingredients for medicine or dodging a slew of attacks from someone you mistook for a friend. It will not pose any challenge to voracious fans of platformers, but it is a welcome diversion from text that immerses the player deeper into the feeling of becoming a part of the plot.
If you are looking for a game with walls of text or a bevy of complex puzzles, this pair of games may not be your cup of tea. Home and The Journey Home are largely an atmospheric experience, and despite the apparent choice of options at several points, the choices are essentially illusory and have little impact on the arc of the game. I personally would have enjoyed them to an even greater extent had there been substantive decisions and perhaps multiple ending outcomes. But what they lack in narrative breath is more than accounted for in just the right amount of depth. The concise text and attention of detail, down to the steady progression of the music, solidly hammer home (pun intended) the powerful message that the author sets out to convey.
Keep your heart close and a box of tissues closer while you play these games - you may well find yourself clutching both.