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review 2017-10-30 17:18
Game review - Gone Home

 

[As usual, if games aren't your thing, feel free to skip this. I try to only post reviews on BL for the ones that are particularly story-rich and don't have much in way of what most folks would consider actual gameplay.]

 

Like Tacoma, Fullbright’s newest game, Gone Home isn’t so much an adventure game as it is an interactive story, although the story is even slimmer here than it was in Tacoma.

You play as Katie, who has just arrived home in the very early AM after a trip abroad. The family just moved to this home and I’m pretty sure Katie has never been there. At any rate, the house is empty - no one else is home, and you don’t know why. There are a few cryptic notes from your younger sister indicating that something has happened and that you shouldn’t tell your parents anything. There are also a couple phone messages, one of which is particularly worrisome. In order to find out what happened, you have to explore the house, reading any notes you find and picking up keys and combination lock codes so that you can open new doors and learn more secrets. Touching certain items triggers voiceover narration from your sister, explaining a little of what happened to her while you were gone and how things got to the point they are now.

The game’s atmosphere is top-notch. It’s dark outside, and there’s a storm going on, so your exploration is occasionally interrupted by thunder. Meanwhile, almost every room you enter is dark. When I first started playing, I turned off lights after leaving a room, but it wasn’t long before I got in the habit of turning on every single light and just leaving them on. Not only did it help make exploring slightly less scary, it helped me keep track of which rooms I’d been in and which hadn’t. However, the house’s electrical wiring was a bit wonky, so occasionally the lights flickered. And for some reason everyone left their TVs on.

Thankfully for those like me who scare easily, the flickering lights, thunder, TVs, and Katie’s sister’s notes about potential ghosts were as bad as the “horror” got. There really wasn’t anything to be afraid of. No jump scares, no monsters, literally nothing in the house but you. The house became a lot less creepy once I realized that, although there was one room I refused to explore because it didn’t seem to have a working light.

As you explore the house, you learn more about what happened to Katie’s sister, but you also learn a bit about what’s been going on with Katie’s parents. Since I’d read spoilery reviews of the game, I already knew most of what was going on with Katie’s sister, but I had no clue about what was going on with her parents. I wanted to know what they knew about what was going on, and where they were.

The final revelations were...kind of disappointing. Maybe I’d have enjoyed them more if I hadn’t come across those spoilery reviews? Or maybe not, since several things were obvious well before the game’s ending. One of the things Fullbright seems to have trouble with is story pacing. This one spread things out almost too much, while Tacoma waited until the very end of the game for almost all of its most interesting moments. Gone Home's setup also felt more contrived. Would Katie's sister really have forced her to learn literally all of the house's secrets (and at 1 or 2 AM!) before finally letting her know what had happened? That seemed...pretty awful.

Of the two games, I definitely enjoyed Tacoma more, although Gone Home was still pretty decent. Part of that might have been that I’m more of a sci-fi fan - I really enjoyed Tacoma’s world-building, the AI, and getting to explore the station. Gone Home’s benefits were its creepy atmosphere and the cassette tapes strewn about the house...which I hated. It would have been nice if the cassette players had had some kind of volume control, but even if they had, I seriously disliked Katie’s sister’s taste in music, which was a bit of a bummer since she mentioned and gushed over the music so much in her voiceovers and notes. I wasn’t really a fan of the music in Tacoma either, but at least it didn’t feel as important there.

Oh, also: although Gone Home still made me feel a bit nauseous, I found that I did better with it than I did with Tacoma. So that was something.

I don’t regret playing Gone Home, but it’s one of those games I’d be cautious about recommending. It’s very short - I finished the entire thing in slightly less than 2 hours - and the story is very, very slim. As in “I can’t say much more about it than I already have, or I’d give everything away.”

I do have one other thing I’d like to say, but it’s very spoilery. You’ve been warned.

Okay, so the one other thing I wanted to say was that it kind of bugged me that I’ve now played two interactive stories with

heavy LGBT themes and the exact same setup (not saying the title of the other one, because spoilers). There’s a person, you don’t know what happened to them and you want to find out, you do a bit of invasive exploration, and in the end you learn the person is LGBT (in this case a lesbian), has run off, and you’re supposed to leave them be and trust that everything is going just fine for them. This bugged me in the other game I played, but it particularly bothered me here. If I were Katie, you can bet I’d want to know where my little sister is. I’d want to keep in touch with her in order to make sure that she’s doing okay, and I’d want her to have more people she could depend on than some girl I don’t know who might be dependable but who also might not. It also kind of sucks that both of these games were set up in such a way that the LGBT aspects are major spoilers - they are very nearly the entire story. Tacoma was better in that respect too. One gay character and two lesbians, and you could actually talk about characters' sexuality without spoiling even a little of the story.

(spoiler show)

 

Rating Note:

 

I debated between 2.5 stars and 3 stars. I decided that the issues I mentioned slightly overshadowed the things I enjoyed about the game and finally settled on 2.5 stars.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-09-27 03:48
One more ride
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury

The carnival comes to town, and it's a strange one. Not just because it's late in the year, or sets up at nigh. Like all carnivals, it promises magic, and magic there is. The kind that grants that most typical wish. Like most things one could want, one should beware of getting it.

 

In a fit of magical coincidence, this one could very well be the spiritual successor of Summer Wine: Greenville, autumn, and after the immortality of childhood, and the awakening self-awareness of twelve, the rush and hunger to grow of early adolescence.

 

A highly atmospheric, imaginative, spooky tale of friendship, coming of age, connecting, and loving the time you have now. At times it got too long-winded for my taste, it detracted from the action parts with detours, or confused me with metaphors, but for the most part I loved it, the emotions it pulled, the characters (the boys as much as the villains).

 

 

 

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review 2017-09-14 08:49
Beast, monster, man
The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells

This went places I did not expect it to go.

 

For so short pages, I though it'd make a straight story of what we know would be the subject matter, with a tension building, a reveal and a violent resolution. Those elements where there, after a fashion, but not in the order or at the page number a reader would expect. I was surprised, and pleasantly so. For me, it was a truly horrifying read.

 

It takes a bit to get to the Island, setting up the atmosphere, and the MC's seeming passiveness or detachment, but also raising some interesting questions with the aftermath of that shipwreck. Things come to a head early and the story follows from those into unexpected paths.

 

Moreau could have made fast friends with Megele. After that lengthy explanation, when I though I had grasped his cold evil, there were still little pockets of surprise horror to make me shudder, like:

 

He told me they were creatures made of the offspring of the Beast People, that Moreau had invented. He had fancied they might serve for meat,

 

Gah! Every time I read it I'm swamped with a wave of... Ick!

 

I kept thinking back to Frankenstein. The moral burden is a lot less debatable here: Moreau is the indisputable monster. Actually, it's a bit like human nature is the monstrous part. Like the bit about the leopard?

 

It may seem a strange contradiction in me,—I cannot explain the fact,—but now, seeing the creature there in a perfectly animal attitude, with the light gleaming in its eyes and its imperfectly human face distorted with terror, I realised again the fact of its humanity.

 

And Prendick seems to subconsciously think it so too, given his sequels. I feel for the guy. Seriously, I was melancholy by the end. Talk about connecting.

 

Hats off to Wells for this one. Even if he need a synonym dictionary, because "presently" appeared more times than the characters' names combined.

 

 

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review 2017-09-09 01:24
Looking for a scary book this Halloween?
The Cabinet of Curiosities: 40 Tales Brief & Sinister - Emma Trevayne,Katherine Catmull,Stefan Bachmann,Claire Legrand

If you enjoy creepy short story collections then I think I might have found the perfect book for you. (Maybe this could be your Halloween read!) What makes this collection even more interesting is that it was compiled by 4 different children's authors. Claire Legrand, Emma Trevayne, Katherine Catmull, and Stefan Bachmann banded together to write The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister (the Internet has 36 and 40 which is thoroughly confusing even though I've read the book). This book has a little bit of everything and with the added benefit of different author's voices it is certainly never boring. There's magic, mystery, and straight up horror (just to name a few). The black and white illustrations that accompany each story are absolutely perfect (Great job, Alexander Jansson!) and were honestly one of the reasons why I picked up this book in the first place. They've laid out the narrative in a very unique way as they've styled the chapters like the different drawers and cubbies of a traditional cabinet of curiosities. The authors are the 'curators' of this unique cabinet and the stories are the background for each of the 'items' they've collected for the separate compartments. This helps to connect all of the disparate stories into one cohesive collection and keeps the pace moving. All in all, a solid collection that I might find myself drifting back to for the spooky season. 10/10 

 

 

Source: Goodreads

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-09-05 08:26
Magnificently Unnerving
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson,Laura Miller

By the way, I went looking into the publishing date, and in typical wiki walk style, ended up learning about the difference between horror and terror. I need a new shelf, because this one goes into the second without question.

 

Points I can praise without spoiling (much):

 

The way everyone chats and snarks, cool as cucumbers while all the shit is going down. At times it made me laugh, at times I would tilt my head and wonder whether everyone was just crazy, and at times I would go back a paragraph wondering if I had miss-read

 

about the freaking blood/writing/thumping.

(spoiler show)

 

The dialogue (again), and how it crosses, goes over each others lines, interrupts, repeats, mixes conversations. Very natural. And sometimes confusing. You have to be engaged, because it goes fast.

 

Eleanor's thought process. Yeah...

 

All the commentary on social interaction. Jackson is a scary observant woman.

 

"She knew, of course, that he was delighting in exceeding his authority, as though once he moved to unlock the gate he would lose the little temporary superiority he thought he had—and what superiority have I? she wondered; I am outside the gate, after all. She could already see that losing her temper, which she did rarely because she was so afraid of being ineffectual, would only turn him away, leaving her still outside the gate, railing futilely. She could even anticipate his innocence if he were reproved later for this arrogance—the maliciously vacant grin, the wide, blank eyes, the whining voice protesting that he would have let her in, he planned to let her in, but how could he be sure? He had his orders, didn’t he? And he had to do what he was told? He’d be the one to get in trouble, wouldn’t he, if he let in someone who wasn’t supposed to be inside?"

 

Not able to comment on without spoiling:

 

The deep uncertainty that comes from viewing this story from Eleanor's head. Was she just that deranged, lonely, needy and possibly in-denial-lesbian? Or was she not deranged (the other are more or less foregone) and the house gave her a last push? There is also the opening, that if I were take on the context of Eleanor's situation, could mean that when all her illusions and daydreams were ripped from her, she had no avenue left but suicide. She could not cope with her absolute reality.

(spoiler show)

 

At any rate, an excellently written spook.

 

“God God—whose hand was I holding?”

 

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