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Have you ever woke up in a strange house, leg throbbing in pain, and found a dead body?
Please say no.
This is the basic premise of Home, a horror game from indie developer Benjamin Rivers. The nameless protagonist, who awakes in a house that he has no recollection of visiting, must find an exit and possibly figure out why his leg hurts so much. Oh yeah, there’s a dead body, too, but I can’t say much more without spoiling Home’s intricate plot.
Right off the bat, Home gives you strict instructions on how to best enjoy the game: turn the lights off and put some headphones on. I would definitely recommend doing this—the immersion this creates really makes Home feel unsettling.
It’s hard to think of a 2D game being disturbing in the age of 3D horror games like Dead Space and Resident Evil. Benjamin Rivers opted to create Home in a pixelated 2D-style that would feel at home on an NES.
Instead of scaring you outright with zombies or alien zombies, Home takes a more Lovecraftian approach and chills you with the unseen. The protagonist is armed only with a flashlight, which gives off an aura of light while he slowly explores his surroundings.
Home’s pacing is incredible. The protagonist may take his sweet time walking around, thanks in no small part to that darn leg, but exploring never feels like a chore. Walking through the dark environments gives both a sense of wonder and unease: you want to see what’s in the basement, but you hope it isn’t something that will kill you.
The story is told through text boxes that take up the entirety of the screen. The protagonist will describe his surroundings when the space bar is pressed on certain objects. Occasionally he will find something that requires a decision: a mouse that is trapped can be let out or left alone; a gun can either be picked up or ignored; the protagonist can grab a picture he finds or leave it on the ground. Every choice helps shape the narrative.
The audio is really impressive. If you took the game’s advice and wore headphones, prepare to have a good time. Footsteps, cat meows, and industrial noises add to the creepy ambiance.
There is no save feature in Home because it was intended to be finished in one sitting. The game can be completed in about 45 minutes. Finishing it once left me satisfied and with no real desire to play it again, although if it went on for much longer, I think I would lose interest. Does this make Home worth your hard-earned dollars?
For $3—slightly more than a medium iced coffee, an energy drink, or a few legally downloaded songs—yes, Home is completely worth your time and money.
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