Title: Home Sweet Home
Developer: YGGDRAZIL Group
Publisher: Mastiff Games
Platform: PlayStation 4
Age Rating: PEGI 16+
Release Date: 31/05/19
Price: £29.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
A Crash Course in Thai Folklore
There is something about Asian culture that breeds good, atmospheric horror. This new game from YGGDRAZIL Group is another to add to the list. From the get-go, it grabs you by the short and curlies and refuses to let go.
We’ve all been there. We’ve gone out, had a few too many and woken up in an abandoned and desolated dorm room with no real idea of where you are or what is happening … right? Maybe that’s just me. Me and Tim. The poor hapless soul who is caught up in a nightmare that he just cannot seem to escape.
Tim is an unlucky guy. A little down on his luck, you might say. His wife has disappeared and to make matters more perilous; he has just woken up in the run-down dorm room. To make things worse, a strange ghost lady is wandering the halls, armed with a box knife intent on killing Tim the moment she catches a glimpse of him.
Talk about having a bad day!
Set in Thailand, making use of real Thai myths and culture, does this game offer a terrifying experience, or is it you who feels trapped in a nightmare trying to play it? Keep reading to hear my thoughts on the matter.
Home sweet home is a first-person horror survival game, that is also built for full VR gameplay. I’ll take a hard pass on that one. I carried a spare pair of trousers with me playing on outside of VR, and I’d dread to think what would happen during full immersion.
One of the most entertaining and most unnerving elements of this game was the audio. There was no score or at least no continual music to accompany you. No, this game was all about the atmosphere, and it wanted you to feel as if you were alone. The silence also lured you in, almost relaxing you during the quieter moments, only for a sudden noise to come along and leave you with chills. It could be as innocent as a door you opened auto-closing, or it could be a weeping figure inside a bathroom stall. A character you never meet, but whose sorrow never fails to give you the creeps.
A Chilling Villain Keeps You on Your Toes
The core villain in the game, the killer ghost girl, was another excellent example of how horror is not just about blood and gore, but about the build-up. It is about dread and the possibility of pain and bloodshed. Her shuffling footsteps or he ratchet like the sound of her box knife perpetually opening and closing, a constant effect whenever she was near, certainly got your heart pumping and that good old ache in your head that only horror can invoke.
All these subtle and not so subtle psychological elements all piled up through the course of the game, as you engage in a deadly cat and mouse pursuit, in which you are always the mouse, and she is always the kind of the freaking jungle. This builds up to a final confrontation that will have your mouth dry and your palms wet.
Much like the audio, the visual of this game were spot on. It’s my experience that VR games played out of VR have a certain finish to the graphics that is hard to explain but easy to understand. Like a sheen that you will understand the minute you see them. I had the same with REVII and with this. After a bit of gameplay, however, this sheen falls away, and you are left with a very good-looking game.
The different chapters and different locations were rich and varied, and while, of course, a lot of the smaller details such as graffiti, posters and other subtleties were in Thai, a language I am not familiar with, it was easy to understand that they were not just random items but had been created with care and intent. Each room and each floor were creepy and well put together, making it a challenge to navigate without ever being too complicated.
It’s a touch I appreciate in a game, although they did not go a far as to make individual books or DVDs for the shelves in the house. This isn’t a slight on the devs or the game, but just something I look for in such situations.
The different environments were large and left a lot of room for moving. While many doorways and such were not interactable, many of those that were offered nothing to the player other than an exercise in exploration. The semi-open world-like experience was fun given the hunt that was on for collectables — namely ‘mysterious’ photo pieces and extracts of Tim’s wife’s diary.
Stealth and Exploration are Key to Survival
Playing Home Sweet Home is a tense exercise in patience. There is no rushing this game, namely because of the psychopath that lurks in the darkness.
There are two different yet interlinked storylines that you move through. One involves a strong stealth and puzzle-solving element, moving around two different core locations, an abandoned school and a police station. The other is a very PT-like experience where you need to walk around your own home – which is more trashed each time you visit – and enter certain rooms at certain times to trigger events. It’s a little tiresome, but there were a couple of nice jump scares that made it worthwhile.
The core element of gameplay is the stealth aspect, as you have must avoid the knife girl at all costs. Many times, she delivers a one-shot kill. There are instances where you can button mash (X) your way out of an altercation, but then you need to high-tail it away from her and hide until she calms down.
Simple Controls for a Complex Game
There is no combat mechanic in the game. You are armed with a flashlight and can, in certain levels, find incense sticks that can be used to distract the weird guardians that appear. Their red laser eyes find you and call the knife queen to you in an instant.
All you can do is move around, crouch and hide as often as possible. To make the gameplay even more complicated, the movement pattern of the knife queen can change should she spot you. This means you can never assume she is going to be in one place at a particular time.
One issue I did have with the game was that while the sound effects were great, there was no distance considered. So, when you were hiding waiting for the right moment to move, the sound of the ghost girl’s footsteps never altered, meaning you could not gauge where she was or in what direction she was moving.
A Standout (Odd) Moment
It would be unfair to review this game without mentioning the strangest element. Again, the game does explain this to you as you play, but it still stands out. The second chapter sees you up against a weird giant who is the manifestation of a boy who committed suicide. I won’t spoil the ending as that is, in itself, a puzzle, but it remains one of my weirdest gaming moments of the year.
Beneath the terrifying exterior and the chilling gameplay, there is a touching story behind the knife girl, and the ending is certainly emotional.
If I had one gripe with the game, it would be that the ending just happens. You are then hit with the fact that there will be more ‘episodes’ being made. There is no real closure for Tim and still very little explanation as to why his wife disappeared and why she kept running away every time you got close to her during the game.
One Encounter is Enough
Unless you are interested in collectables, there isn’t much reason to play the game a second time. The only thing I could think of would be a run-through in the lead up to the second episode being released.
I don’t know if the scares would be the same the second time around, as it is often the element of the unknown that also gives a good edge of a horror game. When you know what to do, and know what is coming up, that razor’s edge of tension and fear can often be dulled, and the memory of what was a very good game can be tarnished.
Touching Story but Questions Remain
Home Sweet Home is an intense horror game, delivering a near non-stop assault on the nerves, with just the right amount of downtime to let your heart rate settle but not for complacency to creep in. I don’t mind there being a sequel, but this game was released two years ago, and the PC port is only going to be released this year, so I am unsure when the second part will be available on the PlayStation. In any case, I will be eagerly waiting for it, and can’t wait to sink my teeth into another round.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Home Sweet Home from the PlayStation Store on the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP1059-CUSA14950_00-HOMESWEETHOME0EU?scope=516
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.