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Home: A Unique Horror Adventure iOS Review - -

Gameplay 9.8
Graphics 9.0
Sound 10
Value 7.0
Developer: Benjamin Rivers Inc
Review Date:
July 2013
Sean Warhurst
Price: $2.99



Up until I decided to stop being a technophobic luddite and finally pick up a smartphone, I used to scoff at the notion that mobile games were becoming serious contenders against consoles and computers. My sentiments quickly changed when I discovered that games like The Walking Dead, The Broken Sword series and many other high profile titles were available on the platform without any compromises from the transfer to the handheld medium; however, the true wealth of gaming brilliance was to be discovered in some of the genre-breaking indie games nestled amongst the more well known titles.

Games like McPixel, Gesundheit and others are what really cemented my new found love for mobile gaming, subverting the established tropes and expectations of what constitutes a game and redefining staid and tired genres that had long stagnated due to bigger developers being unable (Or unwilling) to take major risks in design and content.

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One of the titles leading this new vanguard of gaming is Home: A Unique Horror Adventure; developed by Benjamin Rivers and originally released on PC in 2012 to rave reviews, Home more than lives up to the claims of its title. Placing you in the shoes of an amnesiac protagonist, you awaken in a strange house with a storm raging outside and a dead body in the corner. Unsure of practically everything around him, your character only knows one thing for certain: He needs to find his wife... And thatís literally as much of the story I can reveal without spoiling the experience. You see, Home has a narrative device unlike that of any other game on the market Ė It doesnít tell a story so much as allow you the resources with which you can tell your own. The most obvious comparison would be those old ĎChoose Your Own AdventureĒ novels, but Home is so much more than a simple series of branching tangential possibilities.

Rendered lovingly in a retro pixelated 2D style, one might think that this aesthetic may serve to detract from the mood of the game, but Homeís minimal graphics work incredibly well, feeding into the creepy atmosphere thatís further conveyed by the luscious ambient sound effects and ambiguous storyline.

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The story itself is moved along through the use of text boxes, but rather than simply present the option to either take or leave a weapon, for example, the games unique use of suggestive language will instead hold you accountable for the protagonistís decision as he ruminates on his personal aversion to firearms and then cautiously asks ďI didnít take it, did I?Ē

The game is dynamic in the sense that itís constantly shifting; each decision made by the player, no matter how subtle, shapes the narrative and much of the game only hints at an item or locationís true significance, leaving the player to fill in the gaps. This is where home succeeds the most; as you make your way through the games various locales, lit only by the lonely glow of your lantern, youíre presented with some pretty graphic scenes, yet itís the ambiguity of the less overt aspects of the story that truly resonate. With Home, youíre constantly interpreting what youíre seeing and, as such, every player will have a different experience, even if the choices that they make in the game are similar - Home is that rare breed of game that realises that whatís left unsaid can be infinitely more terrifying than anything you can present on the screen.

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The controls are easy to use: Touch on either side of the screen to move your avatar in the desired direction and simply tap on any objects of interest or take a close look. On occasion youíll have to swipe upwards to pierce the inky darkness with the small circle of light your lantern emits, and thatís it. Thereís no complicated menu system or sticky controls to contend with here, Homeís control scheme always feels intuitive and helps facilitate full immersion into its distorted, Lynch-esque world.

If Home could be considered to have any major weakness, itís the lack of resolution to the story. Personally, I feel that this ambiguity works within the dream-like context of the game, but those who feel like a game owes definitive answers to the questions it poses may find themselves left unfulfilled.

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Home encourages multiple play-throughs, and although it suffers slightly from the diminishing of ambience as you find yourself consciously making choices for the purpose of manipulating different outcomes, the simple fact that you will be compelled to play through more than once is a triumph in of itself.

There is an interesting link once you complete the game that leads you to a site where other players express their own interpretation of what happened, and itís fascinating to read the diametrically opposed experiences that all stem from the same source Ė Truly a testament to Homeís impressive narrative design. 

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Graphics and Audio

The 2D pixel art is a true beauty to behold, rudimentary but accomplished, with the restricted view of everything beyond your meagre lanternís glow adding further to the unique feel of the game. The sound design is the thread the holds the whole thing together, however; the hollow echo of your characterís footsteps as he explores an ancient, creaking water tower; the sharp crack of lightning or sudden hushed whisper from an off-screen party; the ominous rustling of the trees as you climb through a chain link fence, only to stumble upon... Something Ė Every moment sounds exactly as it should. Before commencing play, the game recommends that you play with the lights down and headphones on, and I can only recommend that you absolutely do that... The pristine sound design deserves no less than your full attention.

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Final Thoughts

Home is an impressive narrative experience that challenges players to construct their own story; it may be short but itís definitely a case of quality over quantity and offers an exciting glimpse into the future of storytelling through interactive mediums.

It is recommended that you complete Home in a single sitting, and its brief runtime makes this an easy feat to achieve. Do yourself a favour and pick up Home: A Unique Horror Adventure as soon as you get the opportunity, for there is truly no place quite like home.



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