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Gone Home Redux

Hello friends. One of the more contentious debates of recent weeks has been between game reviewers with their glowing reception of The Fullbright Company's emotionally powerful indie game Gone Home and that of the game's more pragmatic detractors who point to its relatively high cost and relatively low running time as major problems. Now far be it from me to be any sort of grand arbiter for this dispute, but I can point out a few directions in which Gone Home might improve should it ever see a remastered version.

Did I mention that I'm not a very good game designer?

(It probably goes without saying, but there's a few Gone Home spoilers below. Read at your peril.)

List items

  • Former Intern Nick and I discussed how the inclusion of Elebits in subsequent playthroughs might brighten the game's dour (but optimistic) tone. Well, all right, we were joking about how tiny orange monsters and throwing furniture around might really improve its down-to-earth heartfelt story. It's still a fact that I've never had more fun exploring a big house than I did in Elebits.

  • Likewise, having some kind of catalogue of items to locate and then check off once found would really make a second playthrough worthwhile. Finding all the notes and journal entries, all those little badges with their slogans, a whole set of those differently colored mugs... it could be that my intrinsic kleptomania is making me take leave of my senses.

  • Likewise, this unsurprisingly mediocre PS2 Garfield game is all about exploring a big house and putting an assortment of random objects back in their rightful places. Since there's already an option to put things back where you found them in Gone Home, why not go one step further and let you put glasses and cutlery in the kitchen, food wrappers in the garbage, clothes in a hamper and so on? I mean, that's going to be fun to an extremely small number of people, but as a recent list of mine attests to there's a niche market for games where you clean everything up. Maybe there's even a best ending where your parents aren't even mad that their daughter's missing and half the electronics are gone because you did such a good job tidying up the place.

  • One of Gone Home's more effective tactics is evoking various horror game beats without actually invoking them. Empty and dark places seem eerie and the lights flicker at opportune moments but in the end there's only one ghost and he can be defeated pretty easily with the magical spirit flashlight and the Book of Dreams. I'd say it wouldn't hurt to sprinkle a few more ghosts in there. Maybe also a working vacuum cleaner that you can strap onto your back.

  • What if the electricity is completely out? Well, it would mean using an ineffectual light source and having to squint at all the reading material. That's... that's an improvement, right?

  • I'm not done with the horror beats, and a big house like the Greenbriar estate has a whole lot of small, confined spaces to hide terrors in. You might scoff, but don't forget: The game's central theme is all about coming out of the closet and freaking out people.

  • Sure. I mean, it's not like they've ever made a game actively worse with their inclusion. Where are your AAA aspirations, Fullbright?

  • "Are you ready to take on the poolhouse? 13 new objects to pick up! 3 new notes that reveal even more secrets! Literally minutes of extra game time!"

  • "That all rather depends, dear sister, on what one considers to be a Christmas Duck."

  • Wouldn't a system that rewards bonuses for every hour of gameplay be completely redundant and stupid in a 2 hour long game? I'm so glad this isn't a thing in the universe I'm currently occupying. Of course, the Nazis won in this particular reality, but then I never claimed it was perfect.