What I Played Today: August 18

Gone Home, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I woke up this morning with the intention of playing these two games that everyone is saying are AMAZING, so to work I went. I played both Gone Home and Brothers from start to completion today, and I've got to say; pretty good. Pretty goddamn good. So, I'm going to go ahead and throw up a spoilergate because I want to take about them AT LENGTH, and if you haven't played these yet, it's your fault for getting spoiled.

Gone Home first. I had heard a TON of buildup to this game, with a lot of just really optimistic press about this weird game where you wander around a spooky abandoned mansion that you are expecting your family to be in and they are just gone and there's this ominous note and there might be ghosts! So you wander around, constantly looking around corners, picking up clues on why everyone is gone and spoilers: There's no ghosts. There's nothing nefarious going on. Oh, there's a lot of heartache and broken dreams and stuff, but you and everyone you love is completely safe the entire time. I kind of love the hell out of this aspect; that you have all this reason to be worried about SOMETHING and it turns out that there's nothing wrong. Heck, even the spooky lighting is explained by a note!

Anyway, what's really going on is that your family moves into this house they inherit from your dad's weird uncle, and your little sister has spent the last year getting into the riot grrl scene and realizing she's a lesbian, and her slowly falling in love with another girl, and all the chaos and weirdness around that. The reason she's not there? She ran away with her girl. Why the parents aren't there? They are on a couple's retreat. But the slow buildup to this and the sense of it not really being a horror story is just...interesting.

And all the little details are great. A bunch of stuff being told on random piece of paper, who your father is, who your mom is, all their problems, some of the things they care about. I like what they did with the dad a lot, his sad descent and his tiny little redemption. Although it has to be some of their jokes that I liked the best. After an hour, I have been running all over the first floor, turning on every single light because it's creepy and dark, then I go upstairs and there's a posterboard outside your sister's room, and tacked on the board is a note from your dad saying "Sam, would you please turn off the lights when you leave the room? You're almost as bad as your sister." I LOST IT, because of course during playtesting they noticed that everyone was leaving the lights on. Great damn joke. There was also a note that you will pick up and look at for five seconds and then immediately put down again, never to look at again. There are some things you don't need to know about your sister. But yeah, excellent work at storytelling, able to build a ton of information in random notes and various details. Some of the stuff was a little predictable...as soon as you hear the journal about Sam wanting to hang out with a particular girl, I was immediately calling "oh, she's a lesbian, and she ran away with her girlfriend," and I could tell pretty much instantly that the wife was thinking about cheating with the hot young new ranger, but some things were good surprises, and very fun to explore. Go play it if you haven't, but jeez, I just ruined everything guy, why are you reading this?

(Oh, side note because it bugs me: people keep bitching about the price. To which I say: You think these things are cheap to make? They worked hard, and they have no publisher. If you seriously can't afford it, I'm sorry, but I've paid more for worse story in the past. Believe me, I read comic books.)

And then Brothers, which kept surprising me with its puzzles and its setting and how they give you literally nothing in terms of mechanics that you've got to learn and what an experience. The story is, you are a pair of brothers whose dad is sick, and there's only one magic tree that can save him, so you run off to go get the magic tree. The big brother is tall and can pull big levers and boost up his little brother, and the little brother can squeeze through bars and can't swim because of that time his mom died, so he needs to hang onto his brother. You control each brother with one side of the controller, left side moves and uses the older brother, right side moves and uses the little brother. So, very simple controls, but they do a good job making things interesting.

So you're off on a quest, and it starts off pretty obvious; trolls, underground mines, blah blah blah, and then it starts to get WEIRD! You have these major freakout session where your characters almost die several times while going over a waterfall, and then you end up this at this abandoned giant's castle, and then it turns out it was abandoned because there was a huge giant battle, so you are walking among these giant corpses and below there appears to be this creepy ritual, and then you are at this castle fort that is surrounded by...snowmen? And there's this invisible monster and the game continued to freak up the fuck out. This is a complicated fantasy world, and I like all the weird weird stuff that I saw, and how they kept changing what I was doing. Hated trying to steer that boat though.

Anyway, as it turns out, the girl you rescued from the blood ritual, who moves preternaturally quickly and of course is giving goo-goo eyes at the older brother, is actually an evil snow spider, and so you have to escape her, but in the process older brother gets stabbed. But as luck would have it you just found the magic tree, and so little brother runs up to the top quick to get the magic liquid and comes sliding back down as quickly as possible and...he's too late. The older brother succumbs to his wounds, and you cry, and you bury him. It was just...so unexpected, and really quiet.

But, you can't cry forever, your dad is still sick, and an owl griffin comes by and helps you (not super sure why, I think because you released its kin earlier? But then that poor creature died shortly afterwards...) So the owl griffin helpfully flies you home, because it would have been impossible otherwise, you broke so many things on the way here, and leaves you on the beach (rude) outside your house. The little brother runs as quickly as he can and comes up against...a patch of water. He's afraid to swim, remember? The ghost of his mom shows up, but she's no help, and you are left standing there on the beach. You try to push yourself forward, but it's no go, and your interact button doesn't do anything...but there's still another half of the controller. You pull the older brother's trigger, and suddenly the younger brother can do everything he can't. He builds up the courage, hears some whispers, and just goes for it. It was SO GOOD. You use the older brother's trigger to also pull the huge lever and jump up way and get to your dad and save him, and then you and your father mourn the death of your brother. But that last moment, so good, SO GOOD.

And there are just a ton of weird little things. Like the time I saved that guy from hanging himself, I completely forgot about that. And that happened right after the little brother's fever dream in which his brother chokes him to death?! And...just that giant battle scene, so weird. But the game does a good job of easing you into it with some regular old fantasy stuff and then just cranking that thing up right after you're comfortable. Good game, good experience, and there's still a ton of achievements I don't have because they were all non-essential things.

Anyway! I guess I'm back to do this again, sorry for walking away for a bit, and also for hiding my apology behind two pages of spoiler-y text, but games. I should really try to get Papers Please done here pretty soon; I have forgotten about it...

No comments:

Post a Comment