Home is a low-res, pixelated side-scroller that proves the point that creating a sense of horror has little to do with graphics, and everything to do with evoking an atmosphere of dread. Designed and developed by Toronto’s Benjamin Rivers, was released for Windows last year, but was only recently adapted for iOS.
The controls are simple. Tapping one side of the screen or the other moves the protagonist. He carries a flashlight, which only illuminates a small radius at a time, and he can cast that light up with a tap at the top of the screen. He can interact with objects in the environment – helpfully highlighted so you know what to pay attention to – with a double-tap.
It takes about 90 minutes to play through depending on how much players explore the various environments in the game, and the sound design, as expected of a horror story, is key here. And while Rivers uses the occasional jump scare, they are deft.
Home is a linear experience and while it appears to be a storyteller leading a player through a series of scenes, playing the game a second time reveals that making different choices does subtly impact the story’s progress.
Like the best horror experiences, Home is designed with philosophy of less is more. By leaving room for the player to layer on their own experience and context into understanding, it becomes all the more personal. Just what will you discover when you finally arrive home?
Platform: iOS, Windows, Mac ($2.99 on all platforms). Developer: Benjamin Rivers; rated 12+
There’s a story being told in this game. It’s got something about a super secret experiment gone wrong. It’s a hackneyed plot with some awful dialogue (an example: “I feel like my brain will explode if I open one more book”).
But if you’re going to play Twin Moons it’s not really for the story but the puzzles. And the puzzles are reasonably challenging and varied, ranging from the simple flipping of switches until they all fit a pattern to the more complicated rearranging of tiles.
You play as an amnesiac trying to unravel the mystery of what happened at an abandoned research facility, exploring the environment and trying to figure out how to open locked doors and searching for items that you need to solve puzzles. That means there’s a lot of backtracking to previous locations (made easier with a fast travel option) as you find the ladder necessary to retrieve something from the branches of a tree, for example. Sometimes you can stumble onto a solution just by tapping on the screen, but usually you’ll need to spend some time figuring out what needs to be done.
If you get stuck you can trigger hints and skip puzzles, but that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Twin Moons would be more interesting if more care and attention were paid to plot and character. As it is, for a couple of hours of puzzles you can’t beat free.
Platform: iOS, free to download. Developer: G5, game rated 9+