I just spent a good three hours playing this game and I’m in such a euphoric mood that I must share it with you. Every inch of the story and every bit I got out of it. From it being a game and it being an artistic piece narrative storytelling. Do note, loads of spoilers but I’ll let you know when to stop reading.
The premise of the game is that you are the protagonist coming home from gallivanting across Europe. As you arrive to this beautiful mansion, you are no greeted by a welcoming party but the eerie pattering of rain and thunder outside the covered porch. You must go inside and find out what happened to everyone. The game is non-combat and very explorative so be ready to put on your thinking caps and figure out what’s going on.
The game style is very simple with a first person experience. A fixed inventory for quest items and a map that opens up as you explore the level. The physics are fairly realistic with objects colliding with the player and other objects. While we’re on the subject of realism, the lighting enhanced the spooky feeling inside the mansion. The randomly generated lighting made me jump a few times considering it felt like a stereotypical horror flick. The sound effects were accurate to every squeak and thud while the voice acting made the story very believable as though the characters were having a conversation with you.
The storyline is set in 1995 which spans throughout the game which addresses some issues still relevant in today’s society and culture. It’s very down to earth and homely but doesn’t necessarily come out so exploring the level does gain the player perspective and hints to the reality of the situation.
As a FPS gamer, I feel very conflicted when it came to playing this since I wasn’t so sure if I was going to be scared or curious for most of the time. There were times when I felt like I didn’t want to read and just “win” the game; however I recommend to read and do everything after the first playthrough to fulfill the story and not the goal. As a bibliophilic noob, it was very thought provoking and engaging where everything must be read and done to get the full picture. Definitely the experience was unique for me for it was not much of a puzzler or a shooter, it was indeed uniquely adventure.
What did I really think? Well, this is where the spoilers come in. You already been warned, don’t be surprised.
Here are the spoilers! Spoilers in bound!
The narrative is Katie is coming home from a vacation in Europe to only arrive in a middle of a thunder storm to an empty mansion owned by her father, Terrence Greenbriar. The story opens up to another protagonist named Samantha which is followed throughout the game as voiceover journal entries addressed to Katie. As you progress through the game, you discover activities conducted by Samantha and her parents. Such as a slow separation between Jan (her mother) and Terry leading to an affair, the ghost investigation of the former owner and the developing love story between Lonnie DeSoto and Samantha. As the story progresses, the characters slowly fall apart as you read through documents and letters. Her parents drift away emotionally and intimately seen by the self help books laying around their bedroom and the unopened condom in the drawer. Journal entries of the trials and tribulations of the lesbian sister as she tries to come out to her distressed parents and to herself.
As the player travels through the level, the stories is slowly realized as not a first person narrative but a second person narrative through Sam which redirects Kate’s homecoming to a story about teen gender realization within a homophobic culture. Since Kate cannot change the past, she experiences it presently through Sam’s journal as well as letter to her mother and father. In an non-dramatic way, it was foreshadowed by the family portrait in the foyer as Kate and Sam look very similar which could be intentional to indicate the narrative shifts between Kate to Sam. As Kate discovers, everything seems to develop a conflict at the same time. She learns Sam becomes very lonely to only fall in love with Lonnie and whether or not Sam is sure about the emotions she is development. While at the very same time, their parents slowly drift apart as her father receives a lot of bad news about a lot of publishing deals resorting him to be very distant to his wife and possibly developing a tendency to drink. This is speculative on the fact that a rejection letter from the publisher is found in the den along with empty shot glasses and an empty rack of liquor. Due to her husband’s drinking habit, she takes on additional roles as a forest conservationist which results into her having a small affair with a co-worker named Richard.
In the end, it climaxes to a cryptic entry of Sam which sounds like she has given up hope as Lonnie tells her she is going away with the military, which leaves her in a depressed state that can sound just depressive or even suicidal. Her parents resolve their conflict through couples counselling around their anniversary which is ironically why they left the house. As before Lonnie leaves they say good bye to the ghost of Mr. Masan, Sam and her lover lay in the attic for one last intimate night before she leaves. In a few entries, she mentions she woke up in the middle of the night in the attic and she received a call to pick up Lonnie as she got off the bus. Saying she couldn’t go forward with joining the army and wanted to be with Sam. Thus Sam leaving the home and running away with Lonnie.
Though all human characters are presented chronologically, the developers left plot devices early in the game to maintain the mood of a stereotypical haunted house. For example the raspy telephone message on answering machine. As well as introducing additional characters through photos such as the obituary article of Oscar Masan and the JROTC photograph of Lonnie in the first hallway, as well introducing the main characters through the family portrait. The log book of the paranormal investigation also foreshadows future locations where Kate will travel past such as the attic and the basement while maintaining a false plot of a haunted house. other examples such as the dictation from Sam where she’s called “the Psycho House Girl”, “blood” in the bathtub and the malfunctioning lights to reinforce the haunted house motif and the horror game genre. The mansion itself is a character containing all the characters held within, the house seems very Victorian with each room trying to tell a small fragment of the entire story as well as using the objects within to provide character development and depth without a need of a narrative. The bedrooms are very prime examples of this. The parents bedrooms is representative of a conservative couple with growing conflict with hidden literature under Jan’s side of the bed. Sam’s bedroom is representative of an average teenage girl’s room with feminine colours like light blues and pink with a sense of innocence with the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. Her budding maturity with her relationship with Lonnie can be seen with objects belonging to Lonnie such as a document and a cassette which foreshadows her growing interest. Her room also conflicts with the stereotypic teenage girl with masculine objects like a skull and crossbones (pirate flag) and her obsession with videos to even writing down Street Fighter combos on paper. A bit further, Kate discovers Sam’s growing sexual identity through the adult magazines found in the locker in her room. The most peculiar is Kate’s room which is boxed up and her belongings in the closet and in the basement later on. Since the room is no decorated, it is to safe to assume her parents regarded her as the normal daughter as well as a budding athlete by the trophies in the foyer. While the basement articles indicate Kate is straightforward and above average in school. Which is dualistic to Sam since the assignment of the female reproductive cycle is identical but Sam was pretty creative in her answer but only receiving an average grade of C minus.
Though that isn’t the first time the player encounters duality. Aside from the visual light and darkness, the player through Kate’s perspective see the duality of liberalism and conservatism between sibling and parent. While Sam stands firmly as lesbian, her parents deject this epiphany as just a phase in adolescent development. She also begins to express more openly her music rather than containing her personality represented by her room. As she creates this space where it is a hybrid between herself and Lonnie. Within this room, it contained music she enjoys and contains music interests shared between Sam and Lonnie which contrasts to her brightly painted bedroom. The room in the basement also has a sense of two people where Sam and Lonnie shared an intimate moment while her bedroom contained the innocence of herself.
That’s my take on it; play the game if you really want to get your own take on it. Until next time, love yourself and love each other.