Developer & Publisher: Game Grumps/Rogue Games
Released: June 1, 2023
Requirements: OS: Windows 10
Processor: Intel core i7 4710HQ; AMD FX 8300
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; AMD Radeon R9 380
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 4 GB available space
Game Grumps/Rogue Games
This is an intriguing, if occasionally screamingly frustrating, bit of puzzling fun.
As the Steam page says, Homebody is a game where you catch up with old friends and try not to get murdered. Such a simple description, yet it belies a more complicated endeavour.
Emily is agoraphobic, but has managed to force herself to gather with college friends at a remote rental house to watch the Perseid meteor shower. She hasn't seen them for nearly a year, so a degree of awkwardness is apparent. That the front door seemingly can't be opened is a whole other thing.
She chats and explores and then the power goes out. And then she gets killed. And then things start again.
The first time it happened it was a bit of a ‘what the’ moment, but having then moved on and been killed again and started over again, it quickly became clear that what we have is a time loop. As in the excellent movie Edge of Tomorrow, ‘live, die, repeat,’ and just like Tom Cruise in the movie, Emily remembers what she has learned from loop to loop. Which is important.
Time passes, as indicated by the clock top right, and doing things in a timely way matters. So if Emily has solved a puzzle, she will know how to do it again without all the previous ‘working things out,’ and she might therefore make further progress before being killed once more. She also won’t have to do everything again; if she has opened a cage and found a note with a code for a panel somewhere else, she will know that code each and every subsequent loop and won’t have to solve the cage puzzle again.
She will though have to solve some things more than once (and perhaps many times depending on how many times she dies). There is one door that eventually stays open, but while she knows codes, or the way to set a pump to trigger a door etc., she still has to do it again if she wants to enter the particular location. So you will do some things many times as you ferret your way through the house.
I have to say I really liked this aspect, right up until I almost didn’t. More of the latter later.
You will quickly discover that there are many puzzles and conundrums to be solved, and your best adventuring and exploring brain will be required. Poke about, read things, talk to the other people; all might reveal information relevant to one or other of the puzzles. I quickly ended up largely ignoring Emily’s potential demise, and just focussed on gathering what I needed to hopefully move on in the next loop. I also stopped seeing Emily’s death as a totally bad thing; to the contrary, it restarted the loop and I could put what I had learned into practice (I also confess to deliberately dying on occasion to start a new loop).
Some things happen at a particular time each loop, and it pays to pay attention. The power will go out for instance, so if you are trying to win at the video game Pird, don’t start just before you know there will be no power. The killer also doesn’t start hunting through the house until several hours of gametime have elapsed (at least initially) so you shouldn’t fret about being knifed three minutes in.
Things you learn will be stored in your memory log, just a Tab or mouse click away. A little picture of the code, pump solution etc., will be available, and they are linked to other connected ‘memories.’ I still tended to write things down, but the log is well done and accessing it stops time, so you won’t lose any when reviewing your memory. The Esc button will also pause things.
That time passes is a given, but there is plenty of time in the bulk of the game to do things, advance your memory, do some more things, and then think about what you know in between dying and starting again. I tended to stop time, or wait after a death, and plot pathways to where I wanted to go next. Despite that there were quite a few false starts and quite a few untimely deaths, but I generally felt that I was making progress. Which didn’t mean that I didn’t occasionally cuss at the screen.
Towards the end of the game things ratchet up. Which is where the looping aspect became a bit un-fun.
Without spoiling things, the last two sequences require you to do numerous things within a single loop. What seemed generous at the start is much less so at this stage, especially as the killer is released earlier in the loop. While by this stage you will probably have worked out where you can hide, that you can evade the killer by using the environment and even just by dodging, if you fail just once you have to start the sequence and all its component parts again. Do it successfully the first time and good on you; after about half a dozen tries my frustration level went through the roof.
I got there in the end, largely by settling down and just accepting that I would have to actively work to avoid the killer. It wasn’t what I had done to that point, and while it took a goodly amount of time, it paid off. Run away, lure it one way and run the other, dodge if possible etc., etc. The game provides feedback on when the killer is approaching, and it can’t move as fast as you, both of which help.
On reflection I think the escalating requirements reflect Emily’s state of mind, given the story that unfolds as you go. It's an elaborate tale, conversations and a cutscene painting a picture that is anything but ‘natural,’ and angst and anxiety is prevalent. Which makes sense narratively, but doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you fail.
Overall I thought the puzzles were excellent. In themselves they can be reasonably straightforward, provided you have joined the dots between the clue/s and the puzzle. Those things can be separated by time and distance, so it pays to review your memory log if you are stuck. Or you can listen to Peter, who will provide a number of clues should you want them. In my playthrough he showed up after a death, and would ask at times whether I wanted more than his initial insight. He did a good job, meaning a walkthrough was sparingly but necessarily used.
They can also be rather diabolical. The gas tunnels are a case in point. Work out how they work and it's relatively plain sailing, but they seemed unfathomable until the ah-ha light went on. That you might die a few times to get to that point should perhaps be expected.
You can WASD to get about or use point and click. The game plays in the third person, and as you have no control over the camera view (it changes constantly as you go, from behind to in front to anywhere else in between). I found WASD more likely to lead to a misstep than pointing and clicking. You might feel differently. It is nicely animated in a retro-Sims sort of way, and exclusively saves automatically. There is no spoken word, but plenty of conversations, and there is plenty of sound. Some story detail comes in a rush but that might depend on how many times you die. Cutscenes tended to happen after a death or restarting a game, and perhaps they are more spread out if you die more often.
I am not sure I understood all aspects of the story, least of all the scuttling chicken-carcass looking things. I intend to focus more on that aspect next time through. Which will definitely occur. Much like a boss battle in an action game, the end-game frustrations were an in-the-moment negative each time I failed, but a tad exhilarating all the same and especially when I got through, while the end-game itself was a definite plus.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB