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In Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, the player ventures into underground tunnels inhabited by grisly man/pig hybrids. In Gone Home, the player explores an average suburban home. Gone Home, believe it or not, is the far scarier game.
Gone Home critics dismiss it as being an interactive movie rather than a game. After all, you're just walking around a house and learning the backstory of its inhabitants through journal entries, letters and other items. Where's the challenge in that?
Personally, I found it all very challenging. As soon as I stepped through the front door of the house, I was convinced that I would find at least one dead body. Or a ghost. Or a ghost that wields dead bodies like nunchuks.
This isn't unintentional. The developers are clearly fucking with our heads here. They've filled the games with all the typical horror game cues. A stormy night. An empty mansion. Flickering lights. Complete silence. One of those things by itself concerns me. You throw them all at me and I expect to get video-murdered repeatedly.
"A zombie dog's gonna come through that window any moment now," I thought.
I didn't have a clue what exactly I would find in the depths of that mansion. It could have been anything. I was at the mercy of the developers, following a breadcrumb trail of evidence through the darkened hallways of this home. The lack of an active challenge, like shooting robots or solving puzzles, gave me plenty of time to imagine the threat awaiting me. Would it be a burglar? No, too mundane. A zombie? Too trendy. A vengeful spirit accidentally summoned by a couple dumb kids? Maybe.
Oh. It's none of those things.
Machine for Pigs is a constant source of chills, too. However, once you've seen the pig-men and learn their pathing behavior, some of their magic is lost. They're still spooky as hell, sure. But they're not nearly as frightening as that first half-hour or so before you encountered them, when you just had a vague notion that something monstrous was out to get you. The pig-men are well-designed monsters but they pale in comparison to the unknown.
if you hate Gone Home, it's probably because you feel it's a big trick. It's two hours of build-up to a game that never actually happens. To me, though, that build-up is the game. There aren't any puzzles but my mind was racing the whole time, trying to figure out what evil lurked in this house before it came for me. There are no monsters to fight but I spent two hours locked in battle with my inner coward, willing myself to enter each new room and resisting the urge to take a break. My reflexes weren't tested but my nerve sure was.
Gone Home has received widespread praise for pushing the boundaries of story-telling in games. What I'll remember the game for, though, is how it scared the crap out of me constantly and without mercy. You're a cruel bastard, Gone Home, and I love you for it.