25/09/2021

๐Ÿ  No Longer Home | PC | Review | 7/10 | ๐Ÿ  @PixelHunted #GameDev #IndieGames

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There’s a thin line between homage and plagiarism. No Longer Home lifts a lot from Kentucky Route Zero, with the flat-shaded graphics, magical realist elements, font-choice, animation, controls, and general vibe suspiciously familiar to anyone who’s played Cardboard Computer’s indie classic.

As a big-time fan of Kentucky Route Zero this isn’t exactly unwelcome, but when you’re a tiny indie developer with the freedom to make whatever you want cribbing heavily from someone else’s aesthetic feels like a creative lapse. Then, late in the game, you walk into a room to find a computer with Kentucky Route Zero on it and you’re asked if you want to name your dog Blue or Homer.


Well, fair enough then. At least they aren’t being subtle about it.

Set in Camberwell, London you play as housemates Ao and Bo. They’re just wrapping up university (it’s not said which but let’s face it, it’s obviously Goldsmiths) and are in the no man’s land between higher education and employment. Both are skilled artists, neither has a firm handle on their identity, and they appear to be in an intimate platonic friendship that’s not quite a full-blown romance.


Their most immediate concern is that they’re moving out of their student house, with Ao returning to Japan and Bo moving back in with his parents in East London. Separation anxiety is mounting, with moans about immigration rules, the plausibility of them marrying to get residency, and hazy plans to visit one another in the future. Despite their mutual assurances that they’ll definitely be back in London/visit Japan, you sense that they’ll soon be on very different life trajectories.

It should be noted that the ‘game’ elements of No Longer Home aren’t going to bother your thumbs. This is effectively a visual novel, with you ambling through a small house and getting either Ao or Bo’s opinion on various items. Don’t expect a choice-based narrative either: you get to choose the dialogue but this merely changes the flavour rather than the content of a scene. There also isn’t any high drama: this is low-key character-focused storytelling without any major conflicts.


But, though it isn’t going to be for everyone, I enjoyed it. There just aren’t that many games that pontificate on how useful Crossrail will be when it opens, the strange metropolitan village vibe of South London neighbourhoods, how the 2012 Olympics have impacted Newham, and whether you can really change your desk neatness habits once they’ve been baked in.


Most of No Longer Home hits the target, with the only obvious exceptions being the surreal elements. It’s a nice change of pace to discover “shards of unknowable geometry” hovering over your bed or a five-eyed goat monster chilling in the spare room, but the games’ strengths are in its well-observed characters and dialogue and the weird stuff feels like art school flexing. 

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