Halloween Scream is a stormy day dream

It was a dark and stormy night…

Well, okay. It was day time… and it wasn’t stormy. It was just raining-whatever.

Wrapped in a blanket on a cold and blustery day I sat down on my couch to play Halloween Scream by Bandana Games. This is really the only way to play a game like this. Halloween Scream is a text only adventure game so it takes some effort on the player’s part to get into the mood. Effort I was happy to exert.

You control a nameless protagonist as they venture into Highmoor Manor to investigate the secret life of their deceased aunt. If I were to sum up the game in one word it would be “spooky”. This is my favorite kind of horror, it’s all about atmosphere and the anticipation of what lies in wait around the corner. No blood and guts, no cheap jump scares, and just enough humor to make the whole experience of being scared actually fun. This is a balance that many AAA games don’t grasp.

The game is minimalist and all about exploration, so if you need HD graphics and fighting to enjoy a game, this isn’t the game for you. But it was certainly the game for me. I was able to beat it one evening and I had a blast doing it. This is the type of game you’ll like if you’ve ever said the phrase, “I had to draw my own map, it was awesome.

But the game is not without flaws. The first thing to rub me the wrong way was up until one point, I was imagining myself in the part of the investigator. All of the text prompts refer to me as, “You” therefore I injected myself -gleefully- into the role of the player. It was reading like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Then at some point half way through the game they dropped in, “Besides, you’re more of a lager man anyway…”


But…but…but I’M the protagonist. Meeeeee!

I admittedly whined like a baby, but it’s not that big a deal. I do wish they had kept it up to the player though. If you’re playing a set character it’s best to say, “You’re Ben Bonaparte. This ladies nephew. Go do the thing.” but if your text says “YOU” let it be me and don’t assume the player is male.  Next time, guys. Next time.

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There were also a couple times where the background was too light in places and it made it hard to read the text. But it was never illegible. The story was fun, interesting, and I spotted a lot of fun references that made me laugh and groan. However, at one point I felt I was at the end of the game, and then it took a sharp left turn sending me totally out of the environment I had been in for the entire game. Although the rest of the game was still fun (and included the draw your own map part) I felt this was a misstep.

In a haunted house story, there are only two characters: the protagonist and the house. The story is encapsulated entirely within that house and that allows for the atmosphere to envelope the player; to trap them in the scenario. Suddenly sending them outside of this environment breaks that atmosphere. I was still good, but not the same.

Despite these minor bumps, I would like to see more of these. Like a lot more. MORE OF THESE.

I recommend Halloween Scream to anyone who likes spooky stories and choose your own adventure books.

Conclusion: 4 out of 5 whining babies.

Fangirl Rewrite: Part 2

Read Part One here.

Jamie stood looking at her counterpart. Lily’s posture was bold and aggressive, flawless. She really was Jamie’s masterpiece.

“I’ll ask again, Jamie,” she leaned in with her arms crossed, “…what are you doing?”
“He.. he wants me.”
“What about Cole?” Lily asked.
“Cole?” Jamie laughed a little. “Is that what this is about?”
Lily cocked an eyebrow. She was waiting for a better answer.
“I mean… Rob Denhart or… Cole Sheldon?” She gestured like she was weighing the names in her hands. “Who cares?” she laughed again.
“Don’t you?”
“Don’t I what?”
“Don’t you care about him?” Lily was maintaining intense eye contact.
“No,” she scoffed, “I didn’t even really like him.” she said to her feet.
Heat rose up in Jamie’s face, she started to panic. Why was Lily here? Asking about Cole of all people?
“You almost slept with him.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t.” she said defensively.
“HE COULD HAVE BEEN ANYONE!” Jamie screamed and the noise was deafening. Her words echoed into the distance.

Then silence…

They stared at each other. Jamie stood in shock, she hadn’t meant to say that. Lily seemed startled too.  Like an actor in a play where someone had said something decidedly off-script. Her posture turned inward, she held her arms and turned away from Jamie.

Is that right? Jamie thought to herself. It couldn’t be…

Clouds had grown overhead and rain started to fall gently. The edges of the field began to blur more closely and the low hum grew louder. But Jamie took no notice. She was lost in thought. She remembered that night with Cole, how she had cried so hard she threw up. And the next day when she returned his bag, he wouldn’t look at her. After that she had gone home and written some of her most intense stories about Rob, including the one that drew his response.

It didn’t seem like the actions of someone who didn’t care. And yet she had been right. She had no feelings for Cole whatsoever. He was a dull, fumbling boy with no passion for anything except Counterstrike and comic books.

So why… her thoughts were interrupted by a crash of thunder. It was pouring now. Water was dripping off her nose. She had no idea how much time had past. Jamie strained to see Lily through the sheets of torrential rain. Some distance away, she now sat crouched, hugging herself in the grass.

Jamie came toward her in the rain, “Lily?” she yelled over the thunder.

She was facing away but Jamie could see her arms jerking wildly. The blurred edge was only a few feet away now and hum was making her head pound. The dream was unraveling. Jamie’s shoes were sinking into the mud as trudged over to Lily and looked her. She could hear her crying.

Lily’s face was red. She had clawed her eyes and torn the skin straight down to her chin. Jamie reeled back but her shoes stuck in the ground and she fell into the muddy grass.

Her face… her beautiful, perfect face! Jamie looked on horrified. But having seen her Lily finally straightened up. Her legs had sunk into the mud, she looked like a disembodied torso. She lunged forward and grabbed Jamie’s foot as she began sinking farther. Jamie shrieked and kicked as hard as she could. But she couldn’t shake her. They both sunk deeper as the rain came down until everything went black.

Jamie woke up with a start on the bus.

It was empty. The passengers and driver gone. They had pulled over onto the side of the road into a gas station. She grabbed her bag and walked down the aisle. The front door was open and Jamie stepped down. Something was wrong. The station was empty. It was completely deserted and looked like it had been for years. Two rusty pumps stood in front of a desolate looking office. Weeds had sprouted out of the cracks in the cement.

A cold panic ran down her body, she had been abandoned.

“Hello?” she called out. No response but her own echo.

How long has she been asleep? She pulled her phone out to check the time. 2:37pm. She had been asleep for two hours, meaning she was too far away to walk back.

“Shit shit shit…” she scrolled to her mother’s number, but hesitated. What would she say? Could she even find the words to explain what she was doing? 2:30pm. Her mom would have started drinking at about eleven. She may not even pick up. Even if she did, she wouldn’t be able to drive out here. No, she decided. She stuck her phone back in her pocket.

She looked down the highway. There were buildings in the distance. Not her destination, but probably somewhere she could rest and get some food. Her stomach growled loudly as if on cue.

Screw it, I’ll walk. She picked up her bag and headed out onto the roadside.

I could use the exercise anyway.

Her cheek felt warm as she walked. It must have been from sleeping against the window of the bus. Then she remembered her dream. How Lily had been exactly how she imagined and then so…

Jamie shivered at the memory.

Crazy. She thought. That’s how she looked. Completely mad. And that stuff about Cole? That night had seemed forever ago. Now it felt like it happened yesterday.

She kept walking.

… Had she meant it? When she said, “he could have been anyone”? Looking back she had only had a few conversations before, mostly involving school. If they hadn’t been lab partners they probably may have never hooked up.

But why Cole? He was a tall, lanky boy. With a small chin and short blonde hair. But his eyes were green, like Rob’s eyes, she remembered that. Round globes of forest green. She stared into them and something touched her deep inside. Rob’s eyes…

“Your eyes are green, I never noticed before.” she had said. It sounded familiar now that she thought about it… It was a line from a TV show she had seen as a child. It was one of those soft core, romantic skit shows that were always on late night cable. The woman had seemed hesitant at first, even scared. But the gentlemen was persistent enough. She might have gotten in trouble if she was ever caught watching them, but no one ever came in, so she never did. They had shared a moment, and then kissed just like in the show. But the similarities ended there. The woman in the show didn’t get rebuffed and humiliated at school the next day.

She had a feeling that everyone knew. None of them would ever talk to her, so Jamie didn’t know why it mattered. But it did. It mattered a lot. The thought of going back to school and facing all their smug faces for another day made her stomach twist up. Seeing them whisper and laugh.

“Did you hear about Jamie? She couldn’t even make it with Cole Sheldon!” she thought. In a way she almost wished they would say something like that. But the pretty girls never said anything about her.

The pretty girls with their pretty hair. Their goddamn hair! How the fuck did they get it to do that anyway? It’s not that they teased her. They ignored her. The bathrooms at school would be full of them, giggling and gossiping. Jamie would sit on the toilet and just listen to the chatter. They talked about people she didn’t know, shows she didn’t watch. But the moment Jamie would walk out of the stall everything came to a halt. They would smile absentmindedly at her through the mirror and then out the door they went. As far as they were concerned Jamie Ann Bentley was another fucking species. An alien at the watering hole. Fuck them.

Up ahead she could see another gas station, but this one was open. There was a diner attached and it looked busy. Good, she thought. I’ll feel better once I eat and get some directions.

She kept walking.

She wondered if she could turn this little adventure into a story. One only Rob and herself would know the secret of it’s origins. She smiled. How romantic…

Jamie had never written much before becoming part of the Xcute fandom, but once she started she found she loved the whole process. Everything in Storyland had a purpose. Nothing was random, everything made sense. In Storyland, she was Lily von Eades. No one could resist her charms, especially Rob, who had fallen for her in a dozen different stories. More if you counted the one where he got amnesia. Writing soothed her. Whenever a day had been especially bad Jamie would go home and write. Taking the stairs two at a time- bypassing her mom’s couch- she would shut herself away in her room and write. It felt… powerful.

Jamie had made it to the diner called “Pammy’s”, it looked like a 50’s retro place but from the aged look of it, she thought it was authentic. She took this as a good sign. Back when her family would take road trips, her dad used to say old beat up joints were the best.

“Well they’re still here aren’t they, JamJam?” he would say. Jamie missed her dad.

She pulled the glass door open. Red booths with duct tape patches, a rotating display of pies and country music playing on a tinny radio. Another day she might have rolled her eyes, but after the weirdness of the morning she found these All American stand-bys deeply comforting. She took a deep breath and smelled french fry grease. Yes. She thought.

“Booth or bar, hon?”said an waitress with graying hair pulled back in a bun.

“Oh, uh bar please. It’s just me.”

She had a seat at the bar and unfolded the large menu in front of her. Didn’t matter, she knew what she wanted” hamburger and french fries with a Coke.

She ordered and stared at the counter for a while. Her feet hurt, it felt good to sit. She normally took the bus to school and couldn’t remember the last time she had walked this far. Her mind wandered…

The nightmare had felt real. More real then any nightmare before. She could smell the water and grass, feel the wind and rain on her face. When she had woken up she was surprised her clothes weren’t soaked. And Lily… God. She remembered the very real slap when Lily had grabbed her leg in the mud. Jamie had never been so afraid in her life. Why had she done that? She remembered they had spoken, but the details had faded. Something about… Rob?It was gone.

Her food came. A juicy hamburger and krinkle cut fries with a Coke in a tall blue glass. She had never been so happy to see a burger in her life. She tucked in and her spirits lifted.

She had decided to put Cole behind her. The nightmare had just addled her, stirred up her emotions. It seemed ridiculous to be thinking about Cole when Rob was within her reach. Ungrateful, even. She figured she should start rehearsing what she would say when they met.

Jamie looked to her right, an older man sat next to her at the bar. He was slim with dark, graying hair, a bulbous nose. He had left one stool between them. Their eyes met just as Jamie had taken a huge bite out of her burger, she smiled awkwardly and gestured a sorry. He chuckled. She swallowed and said,

“Sorry, just happy to see food. I walked here.”

“Did you? Grace, bacon cheeseburger, please.” he gestured airily to the waitress. His voice was bright and neighborly. She nodded.

“I thought you looked like you had t a lot on your mind,” he said, sounding vaguely Southern. “Looks like it was just your appetite.” he smiled.

She paused for a moment and drank her Coke.

“Well…yeah, I guess I do. Um, I’m Jamie” Jamie said and stuck out her hand.

He shook it and nodded, “Pete”. When he faced her head on she saw his right eye had a milky cast to it and looked away quickly.

“I’m in here a lot, it’s on my route. Never seen you before. You new to the area?”

“Oh no, I’m just passing through. I’m uh, meeting my boyfriend.” It was a stupid lie. Pete hadn’t given off any of what the girl’s called “creeper signals”, he was old enough to be her dad, but it was just habit.

“He the one given all that grief?” the waitress, Grace, joined them and refilled Jamie’s soda.

Jamie laughed. “Ha, no. That was…forever ago.” she waved her hand dismissively.

She had intended that to be the end of it, but the two paused as if waiting for her to say more. It looked like Pammy’s was the type of place people came to unload.

“We were… on a date. And I guess I got rejected.” Jamie shrugged casually and ate her fries. That was as close as she could get to explaining to two strangers.

“Aw, hun.” Grace patted her hand and Pete nodded thoughtfully. He seemed to understand despite Jamie’s vague description.

He leaned in conspiratorially to them, “When I was about fourteen, I asked this girl out to the movies. Georgeous girl! Annie Nelson, I’ll never forget. I had like her since we were kids. Anyway she said yes, right? I told her I would meet her there. But when she showed up…”

The two women waited for the punchline.

…”I was so scared I hid in the dumpster.”

Grace and Pete erupted in laughter. She slapped the counter and walked away. Jamie smiled.

“She was probably really confused when you didn’t show up.” she said finally. Her voice sounded more strained than she had intended.

“Thing you got to remember about boys is this: they’re jest as scared as you.” he said.

Jamie looked at him for a moment, confused.

“…you think he was scared?”

“Sure, boy your age? Probably nervous as Hell.” he said and ate some fries.

Jamie thought back to Cole’s face. The scared, deer-in-headlights look he got when she pulled out the condom. She had replayed the scene a thousand times in her head and it still made her stomach drop.


Her phone suddenly sprang to life with the newest XCUTE ringtone. She pulled it out of her pocket. It was a text, the number was unfamiliar. It was the address of a hotel with the message:

“I’ll be here all weekend. Drop by if you can -RD”

R.D. Rob Denhart! Jamie felt electrified. She couldn’t stop smiling, she had been so caught up in things she had almost forgotten where she was going. She was going to meet her idol, her muse, and possibly her true love. He was going to change her life. But her happiness was short lived.

“Your bill, miss.” a woman’s voice from behind her. Jamie looked up and nearly choked on her Coke.

It was Lily. She was dressed like a waitress and holding a pot of coffee, but it was Lily. Her auburn waves were pulled back in a ponytail, her face was still gashed from her eye to her chin, dried blood had crusted on her cheek. Her cool blue eyes were staring right at her. A fictional character of her own invention. Right there, in the flesh.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

Jamie was frozen in shock. Her heart was pounding so hard she thought the burger she just ate might come up. She jerked herself to her feet, scrambling for her bag as she backed away from the waitress, toward the door, never taking her eyes off of her face. It was frozen, emotionless. Just two blue eyes staring right into Jamie’s soul. Other customers were beginning to stare too. But at Jamie.

Grace called out, “Hon, your bill?”

Pete craned his neck to see what was happening, “It’s okay Grace. I’ll get it.” he called out to Jamie, “You okay, sweetie?”

Lily raised a perfect eyebrow, “Something wrong, miss?” she took a step toward Jamie.

“GET AWAY FROM ME!” Jamie shrieked and she bolted out the door. She ran down the side of the highway, looking behind her as she ran. No one was following her, although quite a few people were looking at her out the Pammy’s front window.

She ran out of breathe quickly and slowed to a brisk walk, but she kept looking behind her. Waiting for Lily to come out of the door. To follow her. Or appear in front of her when she turned back to the road. Lily could contort backwards and scuttle after her like a human crab for all she knew. Nothing would surprise her after what she wad just seen.

Rob. She thought. She could call the number back and have him come get her. Maybe he would send a car. Deciding this was the best option, she felt her pocket for her phone.

Nothing. No way. She thought. There’s no fucking way.

She checked the rest of her pants and her bag too. She didn’t have it, meaning it was sitting on the counter back at Pammies.

Jamie looked back towards the diner window. She thought she could still see the figure of Lily, still holding the coffee pot. Staring back out at her.

There was no way she could go back now.

Fangirl: Rewrite Part 1

This is rewrite of an audio short story I did in 2013, you can check it out here. I wanted to add more depth to Jamie as a character and generally make the writing suck less. I welcome any criticisms or comments as I’m an amateur and still in the process of this rewrite.


Jamie looked at herself in the mirror. Plain, she thought. Plain Jane. Jamie always considered herself a beautiful woman trapped in the body of a chubby 16 year old. At least that’s what she told herself. She pulled the skin of her face back. Even behind the fat, her features was boring. She sighed.

She rifled through the piles of clothes on the floor. It was hard to tell what was what because it was all black. But she had to find the right one, her XCute t-shirt. She scanned her bedroom and spotted the tour dates on the back, draped over a chair. Maneuvering around her duffel bag, she snatched it up and pull it on over her camisole. She spun to catch her reflection in the mirror. Perfect. Well, as perfect as she was going to get. What else could she where to meet her idol but the shirt she bought at her very first XCute concert? She grabbed the rest of her things and threw them in her bag. Toothbrush, deodorant, hair brush, iPod and her wallet. Jamie opened it and a condom fell out. She paused for a moment…

She decided early on not to gush about the email to the online XCute community. Rob had contacted her personally. This was serious. He wanted her. With a deep breath, she placed the condom reverently back in her wallet, picked up her bag and headed out her bedroom door.

Her mom spotted her leaving from the couch, “Where are you off to?” she asked. Jamie winced in annoyance and turned into the living room. Her mother was laying on the couch, still in her robe at three in the afternoon. A pretty common occurrence in the Bentley house.

“I’m staying at Katie’s tonight, remember?”
Her mom’s eyes glazed over for a moment.
“Oh right, okay.” and turned back to the television.
Jamie stood in the doorway for moment, looking at her mom.

“I may stay over Sunday too.”
“…and she’ll probably just give me a ride to school on Monday.”
“…that’s why I brought so much stuff.”

She should have been relieved as she turned back down the hall. For once in her life her mom’s apathy had been to her advantage. But she wasn’t. Mom was drunk, no surprise there. Except this time it felt different, like an insult. She was about to meet the most important person in her life. Her soul mate. After today she would never be the same old Jamie Ann Bentley and her mom was too sloshed to see that. She slammed the screen door as she left. It was going to be a long walk to the bus station.

Jamie gave the bus ticket to the driver with a shaky hand. But as he tore the end off and handed it back her spirits began to lift. She could now push the conversation with her mom- if one could call it that- to the back of her mind. Her heart raced as the bus left the station. No going back now. I’m going meet Rob Denhart! There were only a few other passengers and they had all seated themselves far away from her.

Jamie pulled out her iPod, set it to the most recent XCute album, and let her mind wander. She thought of the condom…

It had almost happened.

That night with Cole Sheldon, her study partner for Physics. It was her first kiss, first time getting felt up… there were a lot of firsts that night. She had reached over and pulled the condom out of the bedside table and offered it to him. She remembered he looked like a deer caught in headlights. Cole had paused, looking down at it from on top of her. Then he scrambled off the bed, pulled on his jeans and Green Lantern t-shirt and left. Leaving all his notes and backpack behind. Later she cried so hard she vomited.

That had been three months ago and Jamie felt she was over it. Cole had never spoken to her to since, even when she returned his backpack. But she finally understood that it was for the best. That even though she had been rejected, it was meant to happen.

The bus was headed out of town now and in her heart she hoped this would be the last time she saw this shit hole. Rob could take her away… to Los Angeles or New York. She was young but celebrities were above the law. All it takes is money, she thought.

Heat started to rise up in her face as she looked at Denhart’s face on the album cover.

He was a beautiful man. Jamie thought he was more beautiful than most women and certainly more beautiful than she’d ever been. His green eyes looked up from the microphone, his face was mesmerizing. His body was perfection. Rob was her muse. He inspired her to write all sorts of fan fiction about the band members, something she had never done before. But to her amazement, the stories were quite popular.

She quickly became a regular author on slashfiction.net, a site that was infamous for having only the smuttiest and most tawdry types of fan fiction. Jamie was thankful she chose a pen name as the stories were…deeply personal. Lily Von Eades was her alias and the heroine of her stories, the most recent post was an erotic account of this alter ego meeting Rob. So when she had gotten an email from Rob Denhart himself two days ago, she was overcome with a mixture of exhilaration and deep embarrassment.

I was moved by your story, and by your dedication to the band. I’d like to meet . . .

“Moved by your story?” Which story? There were almost thirty. The most popular were the ones where she paired off the members with each other. But she was certain she knew the one he meant.

A story wherein Lily Von Eades was the lead singer of a rock band playing at the same venue. Rob is enchanted with her immediately. After saving her from a gang of thugs, he professes his love and Lily reveals her secret: she’s a virgin. Intoxicated by her beauty, Rob takes her right there as she tries to fend him off, but eventually submits in bashful compliance.

She had daydreamed often about a chance meeting with Rob at a concert wherein he fell desperately in love with her. A happy coincidence where they found themselves sitting next to each other on an airplane or stuck in a broken elevator. Surely once he had time to get to know her, he’d realize how special she was. She wasn’t just a face in the crowd screaming up at the stage; she was in love with him. She dreamed about him at night. Memorized his lyrics, re watched interviews with the band over and over and over.
Fantasies blossomed in her mind, he would love her and steal her away- the laws be damned. Nothing was going to stop them. The scenery drifting by outside was rural now. Jamie finally started to relax and tried to sleep. She wanted to dream of him.

Her dreams were normally as bland and unexceptional as Jaime herself. She often dreamed about coming to school naked or being chased by shadows in the dark. She would wake up with only fragmented memories.

Which is why what she began to dream on the bus was so unusual.

She was standing in a sunny field. What she noticed immediately was that she could feel the warmth of the sun. There were flowers speckled about the grass, and far away she could hear a stream trickling. She smelled sweet water. But the area still retained a dream-like quality. Everything far away seemed to blur, as if the world faded as soon as it was out of her perception. Underneath the sound of water and grass, there was another sound. A low, undulating hum that Jamie couldn’t place. It was an unnerving sound.
She heard footsteps in the grass behind her. As she turned she felt slowed, like she was moving underwater. The motion made her stomach fly into a tailspin, but she turned to face the steps anyway. A figure stepped out from the blurred horizon.
It was a woman.
Jamie recognized her instantly. Lily Von Eades, exactly as she had imagined her. Perfect hourglass figure, pale skin and the type of rich auburn hair Jamie had always dyed her hair to mimic. Her red lips were curved into a stern frown as she stared at her author.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
Her tone was not what Jamie expected, accusing with a touch of condescension. It was off putting, she crossed her arms in front of her stomach. She knew, as one often does in dreams, what Lily was asking.

“I…I’m…” she began. Lily cocked a eyebrow.
“Rob Denhart read my stories. He wants to meet me. Me.”she nearly squealed in excitement, but corrected herself, “Well, us, technically.” She added this like a bribe. As if the invitation for Lily to join her would somehow make her stop looking at her that way.

It did not.

Part 2 coming soon

HOME: the PC Horror game you’ve never heard of and should play


Despite my sugar pink exterior I am actually a huge fan of horror. I don’t know, maybe I just like contrast. But as someone who grew up with a love horror movies, literature, and cinema, I have acquired the same general sense of disappointment as many fans. The unrelenting march toward mediocrity: torture porn, jumps scares, and well, the new Silent Hill 3D movie just about sums it up. A once subtle and nuanced series swallowed and then regurgitated by a company that understands  about as much about horror as I do about quantum physics.

More and more fans are forced to turn to indie games made by small companies, or in this case, one person- Benjamin Rivers. He’s the creator of HOME and with a few minor complaints I would say it’s a huge success.

HOME: I almost forgot what subtlety looked like

The player starts the game as a man who wakes up in an unfamiliar house and it’s clear that something pretty terrible has gone down. He has no memory of how he got there. The player is then taken on the man’s journey as he tries to find his way back home (get it? hur hur) to his wife, Rachel. As you progress, you discover more about whats going on as he does.

The interface is extremely simple, which is great. When it comes to horror I will always prefer a game with a simple control scheme, having to memorize or fret over countless buttons can suck the atmosphere out of the room. The music is quiet and doesn’t get overly dramatic.

I feel like bigger companies have forgotten- or never hired anyone who knew- what is really genuinely scary. You can put 1,000 different filters on your stupid alien monster, I don’t fucking care. I’m not scared of your high poly zombie or your over designed boss battle. It’s. Not. Scary. And that is coming from someone who is scared of everything. No, seriously. I’m a big sissy, ask anyone.

What’s truly terrifying is the unknown. Losing your mind, accidentally making the wrong choice and getting yourself killed, or the slow and terrible realization that things aren’t what they seem. HOME takes a swing at this and for the most part succeeds. With a few minor slip ups, that is.

It’s not all rainbows and teddy bear smiles

Home isn’t perfect, one issue I found being that there is no save function. In fact there is no inventory, map, menu, or status screen on any kind. This was intention as the game is short and intended to be played in a single play through. But the problem is that this game has multiple diverging paths, and your actions effect what ending you get. When I got to the end I really wanted to go back to a previous save and try a different option, but I couldn’t. You need to replay the entire game from start to finish in order to make different choices. I was also wishing I had some way to re-read notes, letters, or scraps of evidence I picked up. For a game so focused on story and plot, it’s sorely lacking in any way to review the evidence you’ve found. The mechanics are sometimes iffy as well, the game does not always recognize when you’ve triggered an event, and sometimes that leads to some confused dialogue.

And I think the biggest complaint for those who have played it is how ambiguous it is. The ending, depending on your choices, can be nebulous and leave the player confused and disappointed. HOME regards itself as a game that doesn’t hold your hand, and requires the player to meet you half way in order to fully enjoy the story. That attitude is extremely refreshing in an industry hellbent on believing we are all drooling idiots who are incapable of connecting plot points, and would prefer it spoon fed to use- bib and all. Whether it succeeds at that is somewhat debatable. I would say it does- mostly. Because even though the ending I got was lacking, I found myself in bed later that night going over it again and again with my boyfriend.

“Maybe it was like THIS. Or considering this evidence, like THIS!” This went on for about two hours, and despite any mechanical issues or fuzziness of direction- there are few games today that are capable of triggering such an in depth analysis. We had as much fun after the game was over trying to work out different scenarios as we did playing the game itself. And shit, that’s worth a measly 2.99 on Steam.

Recommend it?

Yes. If you like horror, you will at the very least appreciate the valiant effort of HOME. If you roll your eyes at the latest movie trailers, if you think Resident Evil stopped being scary years ago, and that Silent Hill was better before the damn sexy nurse thing became a thing. Then yes, give Benjamin Rivers 3 dollars and play his game. If not, stop reading because we’re not friends anymore.

XOXO –  Maggie