Before I head forth into the review, here's a quick spoiler alert. The thing with indie games like this one, the story beats and the narrative aren't the most important parts of the game. But it's what you, the player, take out of the game. So here's my experience with it and if you want to play it, it's only 5 bucks on the PSN store. It should also be noted that I played this game on PS4 and not on Vita.
Anyway, let's get into it.
One thought I had while I was playing the game was a sense of "how did they know"? And the "they" I'm referring to are the developers [bracket] games. The game as a whole takes around an hour and a half to complete (or two if you play the epilogue immediately afterwards) but it's well worth the price.
The concept behind the game is simple enough, you control Kelly, who has just moved back home after college. The whole game takes place during a drive back to the house she grew up in during a rainstorm.
Three Fourths Home does everything it can to immerse you in the game. You hold the right trigger down to make the car move forward and if you let go the game stops to a halt. You can mess with the headlights and the radio (more on that in a bit) if you want to listen tunes by neutrino effect (the other half of [bracket] games).
Dialogue options rule this game. It's the only way the developers let you interact with the world around you. You spend the game talking to different members of your family. Your mother, who is very much a worried mother, your father, who has a drinking problem, and your brother Ben, who has some kind of mental illness that isn't told to the player. It's up to you to decide what ailment Ben has but the way he's written doesn't make it come off as cliche or trite.
And speaking of the writing, the game's writing is phenomenal. And this is important for a game that relies strictly on conversations over the phone. It's better than most games and has the subtleties and nuance of real conversations and allows the player to infer what they can about Kelly's family and her situation.
That's another thing that blew my mind about the game. We usually assume that dialogue options mean branching story paths and multiple endings. But this game doesn't do that. Instead of giving you the freedom to choose how the game ends, it gives you a different freedom (one that doesn't really exist in other games). It let's you decide the type of relationship Kelly has with her family.
And the moments she shares with her family over the phone are what makes this game beautiful.
One moment in particular, is when Kelly listens to a short story her brother Ben wrote. You really get a sense that Kelly's relationship with her brother is important. They way they interact and share things with each other is at the top of Kelly's priority list. The game shows this with their sound design.
While Ben is talking to Kelly, or you, the sounds of the rain and thunder outside drown out. The music (if you're playing it on the radio) gets louder. Yes, Kelly is driving. But she's only paying attention to her brother and this story. And the story, which is beautiful in it's own right, mirrors the situation that Kelly is living.
It's about expectations and how, most times, reality doesn't line up with it. The hope that things will get better when one thing changes drive the game (and the story's) themes. But things don't get better, they become something new Kelly has to deal with. The game ends almost abruptly on an ambiguous note and I don't think it should have ended any other way. The uncertainty of life and change are what's important to the team that wrote this game and it's clear by the time you're finished with it.
The Extended Edition includes an epilogue that takes place before the events of the main game. The game allows you to call your mother, as Kelly, while you wait for the bus. But after playing the main game, you know that this is something that she didn't do. You know that Kelly was clearly out of contact with everyone back home.
Knowing this, drives the player to call Kelly's mom. The reason I did is because I wanted to, at least, try and start a relationship with their family. The game is completely aware of this emotional motive. Some of the dialogue options show up within brackets. And at first it seems like those are just actions you can take (as seen above). But in truth, they break the fourth wall and there's a hypothetical conversation between Kelly and her Mother.
"I haven't heard from you in months, how did you think I would respond" Kelly's mom would say right before the actual response shows up on screen. You realize that what you're doing isn't necessarily "canon". You realize that you're not really playing the events in the same way you did in the main game. It's powerful and moving and I didn't want to let go of the conversation even when it came to its end.
Now, I started this card out with the question "how did they know" and sort of dropped it to talk about the game. But I'll fix that now. I'm wondering how they captured the feeling of being in your twenties and being away from your family. The fear that comes with letting them down if you don't succeed in what you're currently doing.
I'm not ashamed to admit that this game made me feel all of those things. There are times when I'm on the monthly phone call with my parents where they ask me if everything's okay. But I lie and tell them that they aren't out of fear. I know they aren't doing well and talking about my own problems out here seem selfish and greedy. Kelly's relationship with her family works this way as well.
It puts those issues in your face. It makes you wonder whether or not you have a good relationship with your family or anyone you consider family "back home". The game captures the fear that almost every twenty-something has after they finish college. Should you go back home? Or should you try and try to carve a life out for yourself in a new environment? Should you give up or move forward? Is this what you expected life to be outside of the structured one you spent so many years living in?
Those are the questions Three Fourths Home ask. They don't give you any of the answers (any good work of art shouldn't). But they put them in your face, let you know that you aren't the only one feeling these things, and remind you that -- maybe -- you should stop what you're doing and call your parents.
This was the first of many indie game reviews and I hope you guys enjoyed it. It's fine if you don't pick this game up, I'm not trying to get you guys to buy it or anything. Just want to shed some light on some unknown indie titles. Most of the time the game industry, or people's perception of the industry is one that is filled with guns and shooting and killing and whatever else (which is fine because the industry needs space for that kind of shit too). But I think, as gamers, it's important to remember that there's space for all types of games. Even ones like Three Fourths Home that just have you talk to your family.
Maybe if more games like this find themselves in the spotlight people (like my ex-girlfriends and probably future girlfriends) will stop thinking that video games are child's hobby and something that can be taken a little more seriously.
Anyway! What did you guys think?
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