melancholic – tick those boxes in a game and you will have me
interested. Wake me up in a dilapidated building with no idea what to do
and I am probably hooked. Three hours or so later I wasn’t disappointed.
It is clear that the floating
fragment of a child’s drawing is your first objective, but then it’s up
to you. As you move through the building, opening some doors, finding
others locked, you will be able to rummage through drawers and
cupboards, filing cabinets and shelves, and “read” all manner of notes,
books and articles. Or at least you could if the language was
deciphered. More of that later.
You will eventually discover
your objective, at least in terms of progressing the game, and it will
recur, albeit in different ways. In between, you sleep, but will wake in
the night to a very different environment. The building is the same, but
the “rules” are different, and the objective here is simple – get out of
your bed and avoid the dark and oily shapes emanating from the floor
that will return you to sleep, and “unlock” a path that was otherwise
closed to you. Do that, and you will wake refreshed, back in the
daylight, with another part of the building now accessible.
It did take me a little while to
work this out the first time I woke, as well as the “how” of the black
shapes. The axe in my hand suggested some force was inevitable, but it
wasn’t brought to bear on the shapes. While it feels a little actiony,
take the time to work out what is going on, and pay attention to things
around you. Once you have it sorted, it doesn’t even really amount to
There aren’t a lot of puzzles,
nor are there a lot of items to collect, but there are a lot of things
to “do”. I mentioned the rummaging, and as well as notes you will find
photos and other remnants of those who were here before, and they have
stories to tell. The biggest puzzle involves deciphering the language,
and when that is done the stories become accessible. I was intrigued
enough to go back over old ground to start reading what was previously
hidden, and a number of themes and events were revealed. Needless to
say, this included homesickness.
None were resolved, at least not
in the sense that everything was neatly tied up and explained. The end,
which I did find a bit abrupt, left me wondering about many things. It
wasn’t at all unsatisfying however, in part because of how much I
enjoyed my time in the building.
You also don’t have to do
everything. At least one puzzle, involving a piano, remained unsolved. I
didn’t avoid it; rather, I got to the end and hadn’t done it. So too you
don’t have to crack all the filing cabinets (although there is one you
do have to open) and many of the things you look at provide depth rather
than progression. Indeed, probably only about three notes are required
reading, but you would miss a lot if you simply did what was necessary.
Homesick is a rich and detailed
world, wonderfully crafted, largely monochromatic, but punctuated by
colour here and there. You have freedom of movement in every direction,
with 360 degree panning, and coupled with the first person perspective,
it’s the best way to create that immersive “I am actually here” feel.
The game is played using the
keyboard to walk around, although you “steer” with the mouse, which is
also my preferred way of perambulation. The mouse is used to explore the
world, and the mouse wheel cycles through your inventory. Left click to
use, right click to put away. Its simple and all it needs to be.
There is no spoken word,
appropriate ambient sound, and a moody and sultry soundtrack. Near as I
could tell, each time you open a new part of the building, the track
changes. They are evocative pieces, featuring piano and cello, and
saturate your meanderings with just the right blend of hope and sadness.
There is a tinge of fear involved as well, and a more overt, albeit
brief, horrific punctuation, but it would be wrong to think this is any
sort of frightening adventure.
Homesick played to my strengths,
and it has also been a while since I played such a game, so I was
probably predisposed to like it. Nonetheless, it does what it does with
style, managed to feel fresh in doing so, and I was very well pleased.
Take the time to soak up what it offers, and you should be too.
Grade: A minus
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB
GameBoomers Review Guidelines