Home – a Unique Horror Adventure Review (iOS)
Horror is a strange genre. Not strange in the “I’ve murdered everyone and hidden them in the basement in an offering to the satanic teddy bear that lives down the street” way, but strange in that it can be difficult to get correct. It doesn’t matter if you have the best monster ever created if the person in the suit can’t act or the set isn’t right. Take Saw for example: the moment near the end when Jigsaw reveals himself. He dramatically gets up, draws breath and stares at one of the protagonists who is in complete terror. This is accompanied by the music score building up and a series of flashbacks that has you jumping out of your seat shouting “Bloody hell!”. Now, had the music been some kind of hip hop or had Jigsaw been played by the idiot who plays the sparkly vampire in those Twilight movies, the scene would not have worked. It is the combination of all the elements working together that create the complete horror experience. There are few horror themed games at the moment that get this mix correct and I’m pleased to say that Home – A Unique Horror Adventure is one of them.
Home was originally released on PC in 2012 and was quite a success. It has now been released for iPhone and iPad with a few new features exclusively for mobile devices which I can’t tell you about. Why? Well, to give you too much information about Home would ultimately ruin the experience for you. Home is a 2D retro side scrolling adventure game. The game starts with the main character waking up in a house that may or may not be his. There is an incoming storm and the power is out. There also seems to be a dead body not far from where he woke up. It soon becomes apparent that something is going on in this place and the character decides he needs to get to his wife, who must be at Home.
The gameplay accompanying this premise is simple but effective. Walk left or right and double click any highlighted items to interact with them. The story is progressed through screens of text very similar to the old choose your own adventure books. The game also uses this to interact with the player too. At one point you find a gun and instead of you clicking on the gun to pick it up the game uses it as part of the story by saying “I saw the gun lying on the floor. Did I pick it up?” At this point you have the option of answering yes or no before the story continues.
What makes Home truly unique (see what I did there?) is that most people will have different experiences playing this game. The main character perceives events and locations differently depending on how you interact with them which may have different consequences later on in the game. This is a very clever mechanic as you find yourself unable to stop running “what if” scenarios in your head until you physically play through the game again. The whole game has been designed with this idea in mind – it takes between sixty and ninety minutes to complete the game. The developers also encourage you to share your experience of the game on their website. You can also read about other players experiences which may give you ideas for your next play through. This makes Home feel like some sort of experiment which further adds to its appeal.
The glue that binds the gripping story and unique game mechanics is the whole atmosphere of the game. Graphically the game looks like an old school adventure game with its blocky characters and minimalist surroundings. This is helped by the blackout of the story. The main character has only a torch to help him see. This creates a wee bubble of light around him where he can only see a short distance around him. He can raise he hand to extend the light above his head and see what lies above. So not only can you not see very far but there are creepy noises coming from everywhere. There is no soundtrack to the game as such, only the noises of the environment you are in. These range from an echo-y building to a creepy forest, abandoned factory and hidden caves.
As if these locations and the story were not eerie enough, the developer has a suggestion on how to play the game: turn the lights off and put a set of headphones on. Trust me, this is advice worth taking. On one of my play trough’s I was investigating an area. After being greeted by the creaky door opening there was a desk to interact with. On the way to the desk I noticed another door which was blocked off by tape. Anyways, whilst looking around there were whispering voices behind me. I turned around to find no one, but the tape on the door had been ripped off. At the same time I heard another door being slammed. At this point, I jumped off the bed, my iPad went flying, the lights got turned back on and I needed a coffee! If you are looking for some old school creepiness and scares, follow the developer’s suggestions and you will find them in spades.
Home is not a survival horror game. There is no looming monster waiting to devour you with a huge budget and loads of action. This is more a psychological horror. It’s the suspense of waiting for something to happen and hearing noises in the dark that might not be even there. Come to think of it, Home isn’t even a game. It’s a well-crafted interactive experience that every horror fan should try.
4 screams in the dark out of 5