Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 9.10.47 AMI can't tell you what your experience of Benjamin Rivers' Home [$2.99] will be like. Not really. It's not exactly a matter of player choice, either. We might both pick up the same gun, visit the same rooms, tap the same spots, but in the end we will discover that our experiences were not the same. Our choices were not just concrete— they are subjective.

Home is a horror adventure, an exploration of an uneasy world. It can be scary—one moment sent a very literal chill down my spine—but for the most part it doesn't ply that sort of fear. It reaches for something deeper, for a creeping awareness of a wrongness that doesn't improve as you find more answers, that doesn't dissipate in some violent climax.

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Like any point-and-click adventure, you travel, explore, and collect things. Or perhaps you don't. Each time your hero comes to a point where a decision must be made, he asks you: did I do it? Did I pick up that gun? Did I make that choice? You say yes, or you say no—he tells you how the result of that decision made him feel. You and he must create the narrative mutually.

Whether you collect things or not, you pick up information. Wanted or not, things slip in. Whether you demand to know the answers or would rather continue in ignorant bliss, the information becomes hard to ignore. The story comes together. That creeping sense of wrongness expands, points at dreadful possibilities, and ultimately leaves you to decide for yourself: did you see what you think you saw? Or is the answer more complex?

mzl.qipxiwkp.320x480-75Home doesn't trade in unrelenting ambiguity, though. It is simply subjective. What you know, what you learn, builds the story for you. The things you learn and encounter create the context of your playthrough. I did not manage to find the "right" answer to all my questions—I don't know that one exists. Since subjectivity is woven through all the threads of Home, I rather hope it doesn't.

Aside from answering yes or no in each pivotal moment, all there is to do in Home is point and tap, look and listen. The game recommends you play in darkness, with headphones. It helps. Fear is more convincing in the dark, and Home is more valuable when it's allowed to be frightening.

At times, small flaws get in the way. Tap targets can be overly finicky. The text is slow-moving and impatient tapping will ensure you miss things. Particular sequences of actions lead to inescapable crashes. It holds up well against last year's desktop release, but it's not without its problems.

The biggest problem Home faces, however, is that it's design begs players to try again, to run through a second time, a third. But each repetition takes away from the magic. It's fascinating to play close attention and see how your possibilities expand and contract based on the choices you make; less so to walk the same paths, poke the same objects and jump to the same scares. Your conclusions about it may look nothing like mine, but the concrete parts get familiar fast.

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Home is a good game: thought-provoking, unsettling, and original. Perhaps it is better as a conversation, though. It has something to say about reality, about perception, and about how we react to our fears. Digested alone, its observations may be limited. Shared between us, it has quite a lot to say.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • ChaosIsMe

    Ah, another gimmicky game in the "horror" genre. Luckily this one isn't nearly as mundane as Year Walk, but I still personally done agree with such a high rated review. It's disheartening to see such a wonderful genre be so poorly adapted time and time again to phones.

    • Karzay

      Nissa has pretty good taste in games. What would you rate it and what's the best horror game you've played?

      • ChaosIsMe

        Maybe it was the mix of her contrived style of writing and overly high rating that made me come off so abrasive. The game isn't horrible by any means, maybe a 3/5, but 4.5 is a near perfect game and this just isn't that for me. TA has been skewing towards very high reviews lately for lots of undeserving (in my opinion) games.

    • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

      Have you even played it? I think you're jumping to assumptions here.

    • wildperson

      You didn't have the patience for year walk? Too bad for you. That game was fantastic.

      • ChaosIsMe

        There's a not-so-fine-line between having patience and playing a "game" that isn't logical in the least bit, and is hardly a "game", but to each their own I suppose.

    • loophole

      Yeah dude year walk was freakin awesome

  • ptdshiznit818

    Spoiler alert (sort of):

    The story for this game is pretty interesting and I like how the dev intended for the player to come up with his or her own interpretation of it so that's a plus, but as soon as I discovered that there wouldn't be any enemies in the game (which was fairly early on) it lost all of its "horror".
    It just wasn't scary anymore.
    I get the idea of using atmosphere to create tension, but when it's so easy to tell that there's nothing to be afraid of all those "creepy" noises and settings are basically for nothing. That's my opinion anyway.
    I feel the need to be afraid of something in a horror game!!

    • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

      Agreed, I noticed that early on as well. Not sure why the developer is intent on marketing it as a horror game, since people usually assume it's *that* kind of horror game. Maybe it's intentional.

  • Nycteris

    I played this on PC. It was short and interesting, but I did not yet feel any need to go back and try different choices. I didn't find it as memorable as "To The Moon" if that means anything. But it is an interesting storytelling experiment.

  • lethal interjection

    Jesus, these game reviews are starting to sound like Pitchfork album reviews. This isn't a creative writing class. Are these people the new freelance writers? Finished the second paragraph, rolled my eyes and moved on.

  • Alex

    How long does this game run on one play through?

    • ptdshiznit818

      2 to 3 hours. That's how long it took me anyway.

  • MonsterAteMy

    I love a well-written review, and this one fills the bill. Kudos.

  • homosaur

    Whine whine whine

    Words are hard to read

  • Protoman

    I played this on PC. It was a fun thought experiment. It really is one of the first interactive experiences where the story was good enough for me to form my own ideas based on environmental input. Then convincingly have me draw my own conclusions as if I were actually within the game world, the 16 BIT GAME WORLD. That was the really boss thing about Home. It is one of the most subjective, uh, gaming(?) experiences I've ever had.

    Calling it horror is a bit misleading especially due to the subjective nature of the game itself. Depending on the type of ethos one possesses and what one may imagine the protagonist may or may not have done in the game could be horrific to certain people. On the other hand you may be someone with less moral obligation and may need antagonists as opposed to psychological shock to induce something more appropriate to be labeled horror genre.

Home - A Unique Horror Adventure Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 4.5