Thursday, 1 November 2012

A little bit of Halloween - HOME

This represents Halloween

Halloween past without much of a mention in my house. I've never been one to celebrate the "holiday"/festival (or whatever it is) but less so this year I seem to have completely missed it. There were no trick or treaters tentatively knocking on my door, nor did I watch any scary movies in an attempt to celebrate the wonderful feeling of being scared. I did however, without real forethought, end up playing a game.

The Steam Halloween sale saw a few really great deals but my purchases were pretty limited. The only game I bought which I really wanted to play was Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines a game which I missed when it was first released. I also bought Closure - a puzzle based platform game with what looks like quite an inventive conceit - and Home.

Home was 99p, which is part of the reason I bought it. I initially knew very little about this game apart from being aware of its existence and that it looked a bit like Lone Survivor (which it doesn't really). So anyway, last night after going to bed (candle in hand as my dressing gown brushed the steps and my night cap sort of wobbled - maybe because a ghostly draft had wafted past) I sat in bed, switched on my laptop and played Home.

It was a brooding, sort of unnerving experience which reminded me of those scary stories we were told on Scouts camp. This is possibly a criticism. To be honest I found that I could easily guess the outcome of my first playthrough but,  like those camp fire stories which inescapably lead to some horrifying conclusion, the scariest thing about it is the build up. The slow incremental steps which slowly, rhythmically hammer the nail into the coffin. The clues which leave you feeling more and more drawn to the inevitable.

This is kind of the best and worst thing about Home. It is obvious - like so many tales of terror - and therefore slightly underwhelming. But it is also tense, slow and has that same rhythm which characterises the ghost story.
"And then he walked through the door, and in the draw he finds....a key."
Each movement in the game is charged with this rhythmic tension. It's really the only thing propelling the story. There are no real puzzles as such just things you have to do to progress (finding the key is a repeated motif) but even as the story leads you closer and closer to the obvious you're more and more intrigued as to how it will play out.

The game also feels like it really understands interactive horror. From the Resident Evil-esque doors to the Silent Hill style self-searching there is a deliberate pace which develops the game's prevailing dread.

Though the game felt very short there were several things which would warrant a second playthrough. There was a safe I didn't open, a door I don't think I unlocked. There is also a strange ambiguity (again Silent Hill-ish) which make me want to have another look. I imagine some might say it suffers due to its somewhat clich├ęd story, but the rhythms of the telling and the eventual ambiguity which lingers (if a little weakly) make this, for me at least, a very precise bit of creepy interactive story-telling.     

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