Wednesday 24 October 2018

Home Sweet Home ★★★☆☆

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” - H.P. Lovecraft

I don’t like that quote. Not because of the sentiment itself, but because of how it’s misused. Fear of the unknown is often misunderstood as though merely not seeing anything at all is inherently scary. In truth, that would suggest that there is nothing to be afraid of. Something must be implied so that we have something to fear. And what we don’t know about that implication is what we are afraid of. The fear of the unknown is a fear of what we don’t understand.

Why the need to clarify this? Well, during my time playing Home Sweet Home I was experiencing similar emotions to my first viewing of Japanese horror films. I was at once afraid yet curious, confused and repelled... yet intrigued. This was a result of the mix between effective horror, and a cultural disconnect; I knew very little about Japanese cultural beliefs at the time, which made the horrific entities more horrific. They both scared and confused me.

As I learned more about the culture surrounding J-horror films, however, that experience was diminished. Home Sweet Home is an indie horror game from Thailand, a place with a culture that I know very little of. You can see where this is going...

Similar to any other first-person horror from recent years, you will be hiding in lockers from monsters. The difference here is that Home Sweet Home is a lot more linear, even rigid at times. This is both a positive and a negative as you will (occasionally, I might add) die as a result of not running to the right hiding spot. It feels restrictive and stops any momentum of rising tension.

When it works, however, these sequences are exciting; well-crafted and structured. Given the limited scope, it proves positive overall, with the minor setback of occasional frustration.

The core gameplay mechanics of Home Sweet Home are unremarkable; they have been done many times before and arguably better. The horror is anything but unremarkable (I stress that this is because of a lack of knowledge about Thai culture). This makes Home Sweet Home a superbly disconcerting experience that will leave you strangely disturbed above all else.

Lewis Hill

Home Sweet Home at CeX

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