Explore the darkest themes of Thai mythology as you search for your missing wife in this exceptional horror title.
Genre: Horror, Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: YGGDRAZIL GROUP
Publisher: YGGDRAZIL GROUP
Release date: 27 September, 2017
Home Sweet Home is yet another entry in the massive horror catalog of Steam. Fortunately, it stands out from many of the lackluster titles found there by being a skillfully designed game from every angle. The atmosphere is expertly crafted and borrows from a number of Thai myths that create an experience defined by the apprehension that you feel with every step forward. The story itself has significantly more depth than many other titles in the genre and brings the world to life by offering an explanation, at least to a certain extent, of the events that are taking place around you.
The protagonist, Tim, is a hard-working young man who seems to have spent most of his time before the game begins working to build a future for himself and his wife, Jane, spending most of his time away from home. Jane, who is hinted at as being something of a failing writer, began to experience odd events that defied explanation around their home that continued to escalate over time, all while her husband ignored her concerns. Then, Jane mysteriously disappeared without a trace, other than a few diary entries here and there.
You take on the role of Tim as he begins to experience events that are shockingly similar to the events that Jane described in her diary. You’ll slowly piece together Jane’s story by finding pages that are missing in it as well as a number of stories behind the horrifying and malevolent entities that you’ll encounter along the way to solving the mystery. There is a great deal of lore to be discovered, and although it may not explicitly detail the events that took place, you’re given deep insights into both the life of Tim and Jane as well as how the supernatural creatures came to be.
Immerse Yourself In The Nightmare
Home Sweet Home does an excellent job of keeping tension on at all times. The horrors that you encounter look fantastic and each has impressive depth all the way down to their lore, animation, and audio. There were multiple times throughout the game that I felt a brief moment of sorrow for some of these monsters before they inevitable attempted to hunt me down and murder me in the most gruesome ways imaginable.
Even when there is a window of time without an evil spirit showing up, the brilliant visual design, audio, and unsettling events and images will keep you on your toes. Like a living nightmare, your environment will change with no warning; one moment you’ll be in your home feeling safe and secure and the next you’ll be sprinting through the hallways of a high school whose doorways and corridors often lead to somewhere other than where you remember. Don’t worry, though, even the horror is interrupted by other horror at times, such as when you hide in a school locker to escape on wicked spirit only to come out of it to an old wooden house with little resemblance to the location you were in moments earlier. You’ll never actually feel comfortable even in places that you’ve been to a number of times before which is a challenging aspect of horror that other entries into the genre rarely seem to be able to pull off.
Facing Off Against The Supernatural
Your most effective tools when facing off against the abominations that you encounter aren’t guns and clubs, but your legs and mind. Your legs can carry you through whichever hellscape you’ve found yourself in at top speed when you find yourself in danger, or at least to the closest available hiding place. Meanwhile, your mind will get even more of a workout as you devise plans to outwit and avoid the creatures that hunt you, perhaps even avoiding them altogether if you’re particularly lucky. It’s important to remember that different entities require different methods, though, with one it might be best to find a hiding spot and lay low, while another might need to be enticed into a less dangerous state with an offering.
The difficulty of Home Sweet Home is also to be commended as it strikes quite an impressive balance. I died several times, some of them even at the same segment of the game, though I never felt cheated and a safe, reliable autosave was always readily available from only moments earlier. The puzzles were a challenge to the extent that they took some thought and effort but I never struggle with one to the point of frustration. They were also entertaining and fit with the lore of the game without ruining the immersion; they always felt like a part of the story instead of something forced in.
The second episode of Home Sweet Home begins where the first left off after it’s ‘to be continued…’ screen. I’m a bit torn on that as it’s not a sequel to the original story but the second half of it as few of the loose ends were resolved and the plot leads directly into the new episode. This isn’t to say that both episodes weren’t enjoyable, just that they should have both been part of the same game instead of two separate releases. You legitimately can’t play them separately or you’ll be missing out massive parts of the story.
That said, there are a few new features that make their way in, including environments, the introduction of consumables, and what seems to be a slight improvement in the game’s presentation (graphics and audio). The locations that you find yourself exploring are completely new other than a short segment where you return to your house at the start of the episode. The scenery is not only different, but you’ll run into several new monsters, one of which is the new star of the show with a disturbing backstory that you’ll spend a lot of time getting to know. The audio is particularly creepy and adds to the chilling atmosphere with ominous chanting and traditional Thai music that I’ll forever associate with horror from here on out. I could have done without the constant damage effects on screen, though, as I found myself having to repeatedly using healing items so that I could take in the excellent atmosphere without having parts of my vision obscured by smears of blood. Instead of healing over time as you did in the first episode, here you’ll need to manually do so with consumables that you find, and you’ll most likely want to do so often due to the fact that even a small amount of damage results in the blood effect.
Home Sweet Home is a horror game that many other developers should take note of. I struggle to name any real flaws of the game other than the outside-of-game complaint that both episodes should be a part of the same product as it’s one story with only a few minor mechanics changed from one to the next. The asking price of $35 (the total of both parts) is an investment as well; if you’re a horror fan you’ll certainly enjoy the game as it is a solid, polished title, but it will vary on a case-by-case basis whether the full price is worth it or not as it will probably be around a dozen hours of playtime. I find that there isn’t much replayability in the title for me, though it was certainly one of the better horror experiences available during the time that I spent playing it. What I absolutely will say without any hesitation is that you don’t want to miss this game if you enjoy horror, if you decide that you don’t want to pick it up at full price at least get your hands on it once it goes on sale.