Home: A Unique Horror Adventure is a 2D side-scrolling survival horror game by Canadian indie developer Benjamin Rivers. The game is an homage to the very early games of the genre, with stylised retro 16-bit graphics, and obvious nods to some of the heavy hitters that helped to shape survival horror into the form we know (and I personally love) today.
As the game loads, you’re advised to turn the lights down and the sound up, something I would wholeheartedly recommend you do. You’re also advised that although the game auto-saves, you should attempt to complete it in one sitting (the game recommends 90 minutes – however, I found that I was able to finish it in less than that, and was still able to explore every nook and cranny at a leisurely pace).
The game itself starts with you as the unnamed protagonist waking up in a dark house after an unknown incident in the near past; with no recollection of how you got there, or what had happened to you. The opening narrative, all in 80’s text-adventure style bubbles, gives you your goal – making your way home to your wife, Rachel, and unraveling the mystery of the recent events that led you to this place. The narrative also establishes that the game takes place as a flashback, and you are simply reliving the events that have already unfolded.
Before you take control, the game equips you with a flashlight, which casts light around your immediate area. The rest of the screen is completely dark outside of the flashlight’s arc, making the environments seem claustrophobic. This restricted field of vision also increases the fear that something, or someone, nasty is lurking just outside of the safety of the light. This instantly made me think of the original Silent Hill, which used fog as a similar barrier to your field of vision. A cool little touch is the lightbar on the PS4 controller turns white like a flashlight beam.
The controls are simple, with left and right on either the D-pad or left thumb stick moving you in the desired direction, and up to cast the light upwards. Pressing X interacts with certain objects, with any object that is capable of being interacted with outlined in flashing white. A text bubble gives you a description and, dependent on the object, a choice over whether to pick up the object or not – using the triangle or circle to make the relevant decision. I did find a lack of inventory a little frustrating, as in my rush to pick up everything I came across, I forgot what I’d picked up and why.
You make your way between the different areas of the game by interacting with a range of porticoes – doors, ladders, holes in chain-link fencing – with the screen cutting to a first person view and an animation, much like entering or exiting areas in the original Resident Evil games.
There’s a near complete absence of music in-game, only the sound of you limping gait – an injury that’s explained as you progress – and specific surroundings through the game, such as water dripping in a sewer or a fast flowing stream in a forest. This adds to the sense of foreboding – a random thunderclap in an otherwise quiet room had me jumping and cursing myself that something so simple had scared me!
It doesn’t take too long before you stumble across a bloody corpse, which only poses further questions – Who were they? Was this their house? Did I do this? – It becomes apparent that you need to get out of there as fast as your own two, albeit injured, legs will carry you.
Through further exploration, and your need to discover if Rachel is safe, you wind your way through the town you live in, taking in various locales, ultimately making your way to your marital home. Along the way you’ll face simple decisions to pick up or leave items and simple puzzles, which subtly changes the final outcome of the story – along the lines of TellTale’s Walking Dead series. The game has a few possible outcomes, with separate trophies available for completing the game a certain way. If you’re a trophy hound, attaining one hundred percent is certainly achievable with repeated play, due to the overall length of the game.