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I love this game, but also understand the controversy surrounding it because it is not a "game" in the traditional sense that it does not fit into a recognized game genre. The only two similar games I can think of are The Stanley Parable (which I liked) and Dear Esther (which I found pretty to look at but boring to play), but Gone Home is more story-driven than either of those and will strongly appeal to certain people while seriously turning others off.

So, as a fan of this often misunderstood game I attempted to do the right thing and post a review to help people figure out if they would like it or not. But then I ran into GOG's current ban on in-depth reviews ( and was only able to post about 1/3 of the review I wanted (and which the game deserves).

So, like so many other users before me, I'm now retreating to the forums in frustration to post what should have gone on the game's review page.

Here's the full review I wanted to post:

Gone Home is a great game with a rich and detailed story, harmed by bad early marketing (and a few well meaning but over-zealous critics) that led some people to expect something different than what it is.

This is obvious in GOG's description, which takes the too-safe approach by refusing to call this a game and inaccurately stating -twice- that it has no puzzles. It's true that Gone home has no combat, and no NPCs, and its best puzzles are not of the traditional sort, but I found it much more engaging and intellectually satisfying than most official puzzle games I've played. Gone Home has a few very easy "find the key (or code) to open the door" puzzles, but the real meat of the game is the process of digging through the house to figure out the stories behind the missing occupants and why they're gone. There are four of these:

- Samantha, Kaitlin's sister
- Jan, Kaitlin's mother
- Terry, Kaitlin's father
- Oscar, Terry's uncle

My favorite was Oscar's story, which is also the most difficult to completely uncover (I didn't find the combination to the safe in the basement until my third play through). As usual, you can completely spoil all these stories by spending a few minutes on Google or Wikipedia, but the real pleasure of the game is uncovering them for yourself.

If you're the type of player why enjoyed reading every email in Deus Ex or listening to every audio log in System Shock 2, you'll like this game. And if you also like occasionally taking a break from the traditional over-hyped "we have to use big guns to blow stuff up and save the world" narrative to instead appreciate the personal stories of a few well developed characters, you'll love Gone Home.

So, the good:

* Great atmosphere

* Great soundtrack - with a nice mix of original instrumental pieces to set the mood and vintage '90s Riot Grrrl songs to liven things up (on cassettes you find in-game and can play when you want)

* Four well developed characters - each with their own story arc

* Complete freedom at all times - with non-linear stories and NO cut-scenes

* Interesting director's commentary - with an good discussion of the development process, interviews with voice actors and musicians, and explanations of the various in-game references to other video games

And the bad:

* Too short to justify $20 - IMO, at ~3 hours for a typical play through it's worth $10, and is a great deal at $5.

* Where's the soundtrack? - The soundtrack terrific, is already available separately, and would help justify the $20 price. I assume GOG will fix this eventually, but for now this is a glaring omission and further makes this a "buy only on sale" item. :-(

* No achievements - Yes, I know other people view this as a plus, but it would have been a simple way to let you know when you had actually discovered everything in the game. Eventually I had too look online to figure out when I'd found everything. The Easter Egg is especially fun, and a great reference to another classic game (hint: there may be no combat, but you can still throw things).

(WARNING: minor spoilers ahead)

It's true that you can do a speed-run of this game (I believe 47 seconds is the current record), but if that's all you want to do this game isn't for you. It's also true that some people have been weirded out by the fact that this game contains homosexuality, but it's hysterical that those same people apparently weren't bothered by the fact that it also contains pedophilia (or, more likely, they weren't paying attention and didn't notice). If these things bother you, I recommend Duke Nukem 3D instead, where you can play a misogynist who uses big guns to blow stuff up and save the world. (In fairness, I also like Duke Nukem 3D, partially because of the similar freedom it gives to explore interesting environments.)

If you've read this review all the way through and are still interested (and this game is on sale or finally includes the missing soundtrack), go buy it. Now.

(Seriously GOG - was that too long? What harm would have been caused by allowing all of it on the review page?)