There’s always a surprise when a game is more than meets the eye after you dig into it. When I first got a review copy for Home Sweet Home, I described it to a few friends as a horror game where you wake up in a house with no memory and a loved one has to be found. Not terribly original right?
Well after the first level, this title takes a sharp right turn into Thai mythology that I didn’t see coming. Sure, there is a stereotypical ghost girl walking around and looking to kill you, but Home Sweet Home separates itself from the expected. With its issues, it’s not going to redefine the horror genre, but this book shouldn’t be judged by its cover.
Home Sweet Home follows Tim as he wakes up in a house with no clear memory of where he was before today. Again, I know it’s not terribly original. As he stumbles through the opening level with the goal of escaping, he remembers he had a girlfriend/wife named Jane. Just then, a female figure appears with dark pale skin, shoulder length, black hair, crazy eyes, and blood all over her mouth. She also has the least threatening weapon imaginable in the form of a long box cutter, but this spirit definitely uses it to make your skin crawl.
Once Tim escapes by hiding in a locker, he sees this girl disappear through a blood red hole in the wall. Immediately, it’s clear this isn’t a normal house, and the situation isn’t as it seems. Our protagonist is then bounced around from location to location seemingly by magic, and, with a nice helping of creepy flashbacks to their old apartment, he discovers that Jane is indeed around.
Gameplay is super simple, and the game design is even simpler. Tim can run, crouch, use a flashlight, and pick things up in order to proceed. To find an escape, he’ll need to do all of these things, plus hide, in order to avoid dangers and solve puzzles or situations. Unfortunately, most solutions will be to find an item that grants access to a path and move to the next complication. Home Sweet Home is pretty linear and most doors, stairways, and windows will be inaccessible to Tim. You’ll always have a clear picture on what your surroundings are in any given level, but some of the puzzles are not very clear.
As I mentioned, game design primarily focuses on finding items and putting them to use somehow. There’s no markers, so, once you have an objective, it’s a blind search in hopes of finding what you need. Since the areas are so small and linear, this wouldn’t be a problem normally.
However, half the time there will be an imminent threat to Tim’s life in the areas you need to search who may or may not have some dodgy A.I. This makes certain encounters a little frustrating and left me exasperated when trying to find a solution a few times. This overall repetition definitely had a negative impact on the title as a whole, since you can’t engage in any combat at all. If you’re discovered, you die.
Luckily, Home Sweet Home is horror done right. That creepy ghost girl I mentioned earlier? As she constantly slides the box cutter up and down, the noise reverberates throughout the area and put a chill in my spine every time. Doors will randomly close or open when you pass by them, items will move subtly in a dark room, and even a giant frickin’ Attack on Titan wannabe will smash the house suddenly.
The sounds, ambiance, creature designs, and the mystery in which Tim finds himself were certainly well crafted. What’s more are the collectibles you can pick up on your journey. Most will be incredibly easy to find, but that may have been the point. They paint a picture of sanity lost and people completely losing their minds in similar situations.
This can be played on the PSVR as well. I played both versions, and I can say that, even though the graphics take a hit, virtual reality is the better mode for Home Sweet Home. The excellent horror elements are brought straight to you, and the ability to lean or duck made me check every dark corner. This caused my eyes to dart around at the slightest of sounds, to the point where I could only play half of my five hour playtime in the headset. If that doesn’t indicate a good horror experience, I don’t know what does.
Both modes still suffer from shoddy A.I., and it’s important enough to single out again. At times, it’s never clear on what and how far certain creatures can detect you. The space you have to approach them from behind fluctuates, and some won’t even be able to see you through objects with holes in them. While it gave me a nice angle of being just within eye line of them, it did ruin the feeling of dread a few times. This can make the process of finding things and implementing them feel somewhat boring.
Home Sweet Home is a great PSVR game and a good regular title. The mystery surrounding the story and unique set pieces mix incredibly well with superb horror elements. I never thought a box cutter of all things could be scary.
There are still some concerns with repetitive game design and enemy awareness, but this is definitely one scary experience in the PS VR headset. You can have a decent experience without it, but expect some of the problems to be more pronounced.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.