Before this year, there wasn’t much of a selection in the way of 2D horror games. Then we got Lone Survivor, a fantastic 2D survival horror adventure that legitimised the idea that this type of game could work. It created a foundation for similar games to build on in the future. And now, just a few months later, we have Home.
Home is similar in theory to Lone Survivor, but is very different in practice, and presents something wholly interesting and worthwhile. The game is self-styled, by creator Ben Rivers, as a “unique horror adventure,” but I think words like ‘tense’ and ‘suspenseful’ more aptly describe the experience. While there are traditional horror elements at play, it’s never exactly frightening, but there is always a sense of foreboding. There’s always the feeling that something could happen, which creates uneasiness in the player, but it seems the actual moment never comes. While that may sound like a bad thing, it’s not, instead of going for the payoff and attempting to scare the player, it lets that uneasiness harbour itself throughout the entire game and ends up working far better than any attempt at outright scares. This tenseness is only amplified by the creepy sound design and haunting soundtrack.
The gameplay in Home is simple, consisting only of moving with the arrow keys, interacting with objects with the space bar and making decisions in dialogue boxes with Y or N (for Yes and No). The progressing and branching narrative is a truly interesting feature, in my three times playing through the game, I had totally different outcomes, which depended on my decisions and discoveries. A branching narrative is something that you wouldn’t normally see in an indie game, and it’s really well implemented in Home. The game can be completed in only a couple of hours, but the replay value is immense, and you’ll almost always discover something you missed previously. It’s worth noting that the game is designed to be played in a single sitting, and there is no save system.
Home is an interesting approach to horror, taking cues from Lone Survivor in design terms and borrowing from games like Silent Hill 2 in its presentation of narrative. Home is the kind of game that deserves to be supported, and needs to be experienced.