Home doesn't take more than an hour or two to complete – and you'll have to do so in one sitting, as there is no save system – but that doesn't mean it won't have a lasting effect. As a horror-themed adventure game, the simple, pixelated 2D presentation belies Home's ability to disquiet and unsettle. It serves as a great reminder of what older games once taught us: With a little bit of coaxing, imagination can take you a long way. While Home is an adventure game on paper (there are some basic puzzles to solve and lots of things to examine) it's really more of a choose-your-own-adventure story, though that's not immediately apparent. Waking up in an unfamiliar house, the amnesiac protagonist has to remember things as he goes, trying to find his way home. The detailed descriptions of his surroundings – a dilapidated table, a suspicious chain, a putrescent corpse – aren't really descriptions, so much as memories. What's interesting is that, sometimes, you get to choose how he remembers what happened.
Did he decide to rifle through someone else's belongings? Did he decide to pick up a blood-encrusted knife? That's up to you, and it can have an effect on what happens next. Where you go and what you choose to interact with is all up in the air, and to be honest I'm not actually sure how intricate it gets, how significantly one choice can affect the outcome of the game. I do know that after a few plays, I've definitely witnessed different outcomes, or seen objects in one game that weren't in another.
There's a reason I haven't really mentioned the plot thus far: It is what you make of it. There are a series of murders, which may include that of the protagonist's wife, but piecing together who committed the murders and why is entirely in the player's hands. In my experience, I thought I saw a plot twist coming a mile away, until I realized at the end that said twist would only occur if I wanted it to. I decided to make it true, which means the murderer was me the entire time.
Even when you reach the end, however, Home purposefully leaves several questions unanswered and ultimately leaves the story up for interpretation, so much so that the Home website asks players to share their own interpretations and discuss what they think happened. Some players may be turned off by Home's vagueness, but I enjoyed the simple pleasure of inventing a gruesome, horrifying story as I went along. And, for what it's worth, the excellent sound design, even coupled with the retro 2D presentation, was good for a couple of genuine scares.
Did I mention it costs two dollars?
This article is based on a download of Home, provided by Benjamin Rivers Games..