If there is one genre in video games that really gets amplified in virtual reality, its horror games. I am not a massive fan of horror games to be honest but in VR the scare factor is ramped up and I quite enjoy the experience. Home Sweet Home is a game that can be played in both VR and in ‘flat’ TV mode. I tried both modes for the sake of this review and will report accordingly. I will creep slowly, probably shout at the TV a bit and have a lot of fun.
Home Sweet Home draws a lot of its horror from Thai folklore, its a freaky tale of Tim, who has been going through some issues since his wife disappeared. You wake up in a strange place and must find your wife and escape the terror you have found yourself buried in. The story, as in all these types of games is fragmented and you must piece it together through collectables and small parts of story interwoven through the game. It’s not bad, I just prefer my stories to take less piecing together and be a little more immediate.
I’ll be honest, this is the first game that had both VR and non-VR modes that I preferred the non-VR method of playing. Usually, I find the immersion trumps all other factors but not in this game. The graphics take a real hit in VR and the lack of VR options is a definite negative point against the virtual reality mode. There are no locomotion options or any of the usual VR options expected these days. I played a few hours in VR through and it was not bad at all, it could just have been implemented better.
Gameplay in this freaky title is everything you expect of this kind of game. It’s a first-person game where you examine items and solve small puzzles whilst avoiding various nasties and creatures of the night. Anyone who has played a survival horror game in the last few years will feel straight at home. It has the usual jump scares and weird environmental stuff but on the whole is very similar to titles of this ilk. Rooms re-arrange when you look away, doors open by themselves and the sights and sounds are designed specifically to mess with your head.
On the whole, these scary factors work too, Home Sweet Home does a good job of keeping things tense and moderately scary. There is a freaky woman early on that’s carrying a Stanley knife and she clicks it while walking around. The noise if very offputting and always reminds you that she is nearby. I always found this type of scare to be the best in these games. Leaving you with an underlying tension that stays with you for a while. Rather than the quick and over with jump scares that are littered through the game.
A big part of this game is stealth, which I was quite surprised by. There is a lot of sneaking and hiding in lockers and while I enjoyed it, it got old quite fast. Other than that there was a lot of door opening, running and using tools to progress. The gameplay is fine, I would just have liked a bit more variety and more things to do. There were too many sections of the game where I felt the gameplay dragging and would have killed for a bit more combat or more a few more varied gameplay elements.
Graphically the game is fine on your TV but the VR version really suffers. From someone who has recently reviewed a lot of VR games, this game looks quite bad on the PSVR headset. Very low-resolution assets and very plain and dull environments do not do this game any favours. I know the VR headsets lower resolution display does not help but there are a lot better looking VR games out there. It looks good on your normal TV though and this is one of the reasons I preferred playing it on there.
The sound design in Home Sweet Home is very good, its what makes the game scary. Noises from other rooms, creaking floorboards and that damn Stanley knife all add to the overall atmosphere and create an uneasy feeling within the game that I really liked. It also served another purpose by really showing me where enemies were when I hid in lockers, making it easier to stay undetected. I enjoyed the sound design and it was really well done.
Technically the game was flawless. I had zero issues, bugs, crashes or anything of that sort. The game was well made and ran beautifully. I like that a lot, no one should be shipping broken games, it’s very irksome. the VR implementation could have done with a little work though, just a few comfort options here and there would have worked wonders. I think it should be the norm in VR games these days, lots of VR comfort options to accommodate all types of player.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Home Sweet Home, I just wish it had a bit more variation to the gameplay and strayed a bit further from the tried and tested formula of this genre. It could have taken a few more risks and maybe got rewarded for them. That being said, it’s sound design and stealth elements add up to being slightly scary and some of the jump scares will get you. The graphics take a real hit in VR and due to the lack of comfort options, it seems that the VR version of the game is the inferior version and I liked it far less than the flat ‘normal’ method of play. If you’re in the market for a VR horror title, there are better offerings out there but this game will scratch your horror itch if required.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*