As I wander the halls of the building I see room after room, empty, lifeless. There are signs that people once lived here in great number and had done so for a long time, toys, drawings, furniture. All the signs of a family life. I stop and ask myself what could have happened to them? Where did they go? Why am I the only person still here? Who am I even? I move from room to room and in each I’m greeted with nothing but decay, wallpaper distancing itself from the walls, water that dampens the floorboards so they bend unnervingly when I walk on them. So many locked doors that I have no idea why they are? I strive forward through the building, hoping to find the answers to my questions as I go.
Homesick is another of the ‘Walking simulator’ genre that lays claim to being the true interactive storytelling experience, frankly these games bore the ever-loving hell out of me (the exception of late is what remains of Edith Finch which was a surprisingly good game!) so having this recommended was not exactly what I was hoping for playing steam roulette while Perception downloaded (more on that to come later). From Lucky Pause the game got its Greenlight on steam way back when in 2013 (I know I’m late to the party here forgive me and my game hoarding and not playing.) the game tells the story of a man who awakes to find himself in a rundown apartment building. He has no idea why he is there or what is going on, or so I think because there is no voice acting other than a yawn when you sleep in this game. The place is beat to all hell, the decay is very prominent everywhere you look. The game has this almost monotone colour scheme in almost everything which is why I titled this the Chernobyl edition because it reminds me of the images of Pripyat after the accident, cold, sterile, decaying but frankly looking like it once held a thriving community. I would genuinely like to say more about the story for this game but frankly for the larger part of the game I had no idea what the story was! The games story is told through the intractable notes and books that you will find on your adventure through the building but right off the bat you have an issue. NONE of the notes are readable at first, they are all in a strange language that resembles for me Hangul, the Korean Alphabet but not quite, funnily enough though there is a child’s bedroom later in the game that I swear has Hangul alphabet letters written on drawings on the wall! Now… you DO get to read the story through these notes etc. later into the game when you learn how to translate them and to be fair the story is rather good. Without spoiling it I felt it was well written and looking at it through the rate of note discovery fairly well paced out. On the drawback though I had to trawl my ass through the game world more than once to get it all and understand this shindig.
Ah, the staple of any game is indeed it’s gameplay, no matter the game, if you don’t have any game then you’re failing. Bad. This is why I usually don’t like these types of game because they generally lack anything you can really call gameplay. Being able to walk places does not make it a game you need more, you need to feel involved in the narrative and in the actions of the character. To which, making them walk to stuff is not cutting it. It’s why I liked What remains of Edith Finch because that had a variety of gameplay mechanics and kept itself diverse. For Homesick though I feel its gameplay is severely lacking. As a walking simulator, your bulk of time will be spent…you guessed it… walking. Mix in a little bit of puzzle solving required for you to advance and that’s generally how this goes. When I say puzzle solving though. I poured some water on flowers to advance and in the next part tried codes off a sheet on filing cabinets to open them to get the stuff I needed. Majority of this is done without story context either. The games atmosphere is great and its looks are great but it feels kind of wasted when there isn’t anything huge to do in this world. For the most part the puzzles are functional. Some kind of prodding you on what to do would have been nice but the puzzles aren’t so tough as that you can’t figure out what you need to be doing after a little while. Overall it left me feeling indifferent when I did advance. Not that it was tedious because it isn’t but it didn’t feel like my advancement carried any real weight behind it. Especially when the end result of what I’m doing is again largely a mystery to me.
Now, one of the games largest plus points for me is its score, Heather Schmidt had done a beautiful job with the score for this game and I genuinely felt really relaxed listening to it which is a hard thing for me given I’m rather highly strung as a person. It’s got some great piano and violin pieces to it and overall adds a great deal to the games atmosphere while you move around, the only drawback that I have in this department is that the musical choices aren’t very diverse. They will repeat constantly in the same area on a loop. Now the tracks are clearly recorded in such a way that the music sounds like one continuous piece but I stood around for 26 minutes to check and it is the same piece over and over. As I said though it’s a lovely piece and I imagine the decision was made to keep the games size to a minimum as from my development days I know audio files can get awfully chunky when you aren’t looking… like my cousin at a wedding … one second there is a three-tier cake… the next there isn’t.
overall, I think this an OK game, it’s not the best it could have been and several factors like the late game translation. The walking speed and the overall lack of things to really do in the environment seal the fate of this game for me. Now for £10.99 it’s a reasonable purchase. The games got enough in it for the experience to justify the asking price but for me I feel it could be a little bit cheaper. The game clearly had some heart poured into its development but it just could have done with a little bit more. If you’re into the story rich walking experience like ‘Everybody’s one to the rapture’ then this will be right up your street. If you’re looking for a game with a little more meat on its bones game platy wise then this maybe isn’t for you.