Going to keep this short and simple, but KaL and I have been working on a side feature to the main podcast called the FIRST STRIKE! The idea is to play through a recent indie game as thoroughly as possible, then give our gut reactions on it right afterwards. So far we've worked on a couple of these, with one more planned, so we're really curious to hear from you guys about what you think of these.
For our first episode, we cover the controversial house exploration sim Gone Home: Download it here!
Is this something you'd like to hear more of, and are there any games you might want us to look at? Keep in mind our goal isn't to go super in depth with these, but rather discuss such nebulous things as how the game made us feel, and whether we felt the game works as a whole.
Last Edit: Oct 11, 2015 19:17:11 GMT -5 by Snarboo
This is really interesting to listen to (still have 45 minutes left I'm leaving for tommorow). I hated the SNES covers, too. Didn't get hung up on any other '90s stuff, but then again I'm a foreigner so I got the 90s through a slightly different filter anyway. I don't know if it was a problem with my screen or if I unlearned it, but I couldn't see the magic eye stuff.
To me the game would have definitely been improved by putting the journal entries at the end or framing them in another way, like remembered phone conversations with Katie (in fact, for the first half of the game I assumed they were, until that explanation didn't fit anymore). The only other bigger issue I had with the way the game is narrated is that Katie's role in the plot still doesn't quite work because what you do as a player is not what Katie would do, but what a creepy intruder who wants to know all their secrets would do (that one note Katie puts away notwithstanding).
So I finished most of the podcast*, and has some comments: 1) Sam's better-than-expected writing style is actually part of her character; until she ran away she was planning to go to University to become a writer. You also see this throughout the house in her various short stories and her rather amusing Sex Ed test. 2) The price and 'is it a game' discussions were a bit too long and not that interesting. They also seemed to take up about half of the podcast, and several points ended up being repeated a few times. Probably could have used some editing here. 3) As for being 'violently opposed' to game types: I can't stand Tower Defence or MOBAs. Just saying .
* - I have about four minutes remaining which I'll finish tomorrow when walking to work
It's a shame you didn't find it interesting as part of the reason that went on so long is that the debate about the game was heavily focused on those aspects and I guess we wanted to weight in on it because those points deserved to be put to rest entirely and throughly. I'll see about tightening up the editing in the future - I'll admit the edit was a straight pass rush job.
I was afraid that you wouldn't manage to distance yourselfs from the "debate", but it actually was the first time I heard a good and thorough review / analysis of this game.
I would have liked to have heard more about what this being a game instead of a movie, book, whatever, adds to the experience. From what you said, it seems like the only good thing is actually the story and nothing of the gameplay really seems to work.
Also, it seemed that you liked the idea of the game much more than the actual game. None of you could even really say that it's enjoyable.
About the format: One of the reasons I like retro gaming in general and HG101 in particular is that I find it much easier to evaluate a game once the dust has settled and no amount of PR will make you believe that Boring Game X is a 10/10. But if you can keep up this level of sophistication in argument and levelheadedness even for recently released games, I'm all for it. Some parts of this podcast seemed rushed, though, like that none of you listened to the developer commentary.
Post by rogerbraun on Jul 26, 2014 20:20:59 GMT -5
Okay, inspired by the podcast, I bought the game and played it. For anyone who hasn't played this, everything will be spoiled if you read on.
I was in the mood for a love story and actually enjoyed the game. The "is it a horror game?" bait-and-switch was annoying and superflous. It would have been great if the game would have actually been a horror game and had pivoted to horror in the last act, though. The sort of mundane story would have made an eventual drift into the supernatural much more effective.
Talking about the story, it was short, sweet and really nothing special. Sam and Lonnie fell in love at first sight, a tired trope. The characters were kind of nonsensical (army punk) or not fleshed out at all (Sam, Kaitlin). Some of the descriptions, the 'first kiss' for example, were poignant and touching, though. I would have liked to know more about the parents' relationship, but that may just be me being old enough that marriage problems seem more real than teenage loves. On the other hand, wouldn't everyone who 'gets' the references be of that age?
The ending seemed rushed and did not make much sense to me. Teenagers running away for their forbidden love is not really something that touches me, especially if half of the problems (army) are self-inflicted.
In a sense, it seem to me like a lot of pop songs: 30-year-olds sing about their high school days in overly romantic or childish terms. It evokes nostalgic and romantic feelings, but as adults, most of us know how these relationships ended.
The level design was adequate. The hidden rooms brought some very welcome mystery and suspense to the game. Overall, for a story-driven, supposedly avant-garde game, it seemed very gamey. Why are the notes just scattered around everywhere? Why did Sam hide a Misfits flyer behind a panel in the library? I know that the game is about exploration, and you DO find a lot of notes in relevant rooms, but there is also lots of notes that are just lying around. The house is mostly empty, except for the notes, which does not help the atmosphere.
Why the game is supposed to take place in the 90's is still a mystery to me. There really is no need for it. Kaitlin not having a cell phone could have been explained by her recent arrival from europe, where she used a GSM phone that doesn't work in the US. Most of the 90's references felt a bit pandering. Seemingly superflous mentions of a 'Nintendo', 'Street Fighter 2', laserdiscs and so on. It didn't distract from the game too much, but it also did not add to it, especially when it was done as bad as in the case of the SNES cartridges.
To answer my own question from the previous post: Is there any merit to this being a game and not a book? I'd say yes. The ominous atmosphere in the house that you are exploring really adds to the experience. You as the player are exploring both the secrets of the supposedly familiar house for the first time, and your character finds out something new about her sister. This made the process of revealing what happened to Sam more relatable.
The decision to not give you Sams journal at the end of the game, but throughout, is an interesting one. I think it makes the game more engaging, but it also doesn't make much sense. Are we experiencing a flashback? If so, a bit of framing would have been nice.
Overall, even though this has been a mostly critical, I would recommend the game for everyone who has 2 hours, $5 dollars and half a bottle of wine. The game was a short experience, but I did like it. It was a bit unsatisfactory, though. If the other relationships (parents, uncle, childhood friend) had been more developed, this would probably have been a great little game.
The current price of 20$ on Steam is ridiculous, but there are lots of resellers that have the game for a quarter of that.
Indeed I didn't realise the developers commentary existed or I would have listened to it, that is my bad.
That's really the thing about Gone Home which was I guess somewhat difficult to articulate without actually playing the game. It is neither a particularly exceptional story with not particularly exceptional characters with no real notable gameplay elements (the automap is quite nice for this style of game though). Yet for a fair price that game feels to me that it is worthwhile playing and supporting because we could see more games like this in the future but done better. I'm glad I didn't have to give it a numerical score because I really don't want to.
As we touched on in the First Strike, I feel part of the setting makes the game resonate with a certain demographic of LGBT'ers who actually grew up in the period, which is certainly a specific region of nostalgia that is unexplored (because naturally most games are aimed at more towards straight, binary, male gamers). So in that regard I think the 90s choice was clever but was lazily executed (also apparently the devs didn't do it for that reason so whatever).
As a general heads up, Gone Home is currently $5 and DRM free on GOG for the next couple days! This is a reasonable price for the game, so if you want to see what all the fuss is about, now is a good time to do so.