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Downtime Download: 'Gone Home' an award-winning game with emotional heft

An empty room is never just an empty room in Gone Home.

The setting is everything in Gone Home, recently named the Best Independant Game at Spike TV's VGX awards. The story that unravels could not take place anywhere else or at any other time.

It's June 1995. It's late at night and Katie is arriving home in Portland, Oregon, after a year spent traveling Europe.

It's raining. Hard. And there's no-one at home. Just a cryptic note from Katie's little sister, and a big, empty house. A house that's unfamiliar to Katie, as the family moved while she was away.

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You play as Katie, and just as you'd expect to be a bit unnerved looking around an unfamiliar – and empty? – house late at night during a thunderstorm, so too is it unsettling to be doing so in Gone Home.

It's a mansion, this new home. And as it's Katie's first time in the house, it's also ours. It's strange to be walking around in the empty place, piecing together the lives of people the protagonist knows but the player doesn't.

There are secrets here. Both in the house and in the stories that Katie learns about her family, who have become strangers in the year she's been gone. In the audio logs that are triggered as you explore, Katie's sister describes it as "psycho house."

It's a simple game to play. You move with the arrow keys and look around with the mouse. You can interact with the environment with the left mouse button, and in a nice touch you can set down objects that you've picked up. There's no combat. Just discovery.

Bit by bit, you'll learn the stories of the people who inhabit – have inhabited – this house. Bit by bit, you realize you have developed deep feelings for them.

Haunting, heartbreaking and honest, Gone Home is a rare gem.

Developer: The Fullbright Company; Platform: Linux, OS X, Windows

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