“Journey into a ghost story as you unravel secrets, solve mysteries, listen in on phone conversations and enjoy a delicious dessert with this at-home immersive experience.
Welcome to your new home! The moving van has just pulled away and a friendly welcome from your neighbors is waiting on your front porch.
But something dark and sinister is here too. Someone needs your help.”
Welcome Home features a gimmick that I think more at-home puzzle games should adopt: it comes with a small pan of brownies for you to enjoy while you play the game. The brownies were a delicious treat (the chocolate-caramel ones especially) that enhanced what was a really novel play-at-home experience. They weren’t involved in puzzle play at all, but they do help set the mood and are diegetic to the narrative.
Welcome Home was a very unique experience among the at-home puzzle games that I’ve played, feeling less like a puzzle game and more like immersive theater with puzzles; using the trappings of an at-home puzzle game to enhance the immersion in the story that they were trying to tell.
The game experience was a little on the shorter side, taking me a few minutes less than an hour to get through, but the story—especially its ending—will stick with me for a long time to come. I’m very happy to have played this one.
This is a narrative heavy game, functioning, in practice, a lot like a recording of community theater performance. What really elevates it above that simple concept is how the game incorporates that performance into a puzzle-solving game. The game smartly inserts you as the protagonist in the narrative and mirrors that actions that you’re taking with the actions of the game’s narrator, helping you to connect to the narrator and making the story feel more personal as a result.
Speaking of the narrator, this game presented its story across a combination of mediums, including traditional puzzle games elements like journal entries, letters, and other paper-based elements, but it’s strongest element is the way it uses your phone. It does so in a really clever way that I have not seen any other game do, and would love to see more adopt. I don’t want to spoil how the game works, but I will say that I really enjoyed the presentation.
The only minor narrative quibble I have is that some of the writing, especially for the side characters, came off a bit caricaturish. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but it was a little immersion-breaking. Minor quibble aside, the story was really affecting and surprisingly dark at times; feeling very Lynchian as it took something very sweet on the surface—a neighbor welcoming you the community with a box of brownies—and then zoomed in past that gesture to reveal the sinister darkness that lurks just beneath the veneer of the seemingly utopian small town. It may not be the most novel of ideas, but I felt like it was executed very well overall.
Without giving anything away, the ending was incredibly touching and will stick with me for a while. I’m a big fan of using games to tell stories and Shine On Collective did a pretty fantastic job of doing that here.
The puzzles in the game were narrative based and did a great job of making me feel like I was a part of the story. While they felt essential to the storytelling device, they were often so easy that they at times felt less like puzzles and more like perfunctory gates that prevented you from jumping ahead in the story. There was one moment in particular where I had figured out the answer to one puzzle from one sentence the narrator gave me, only to have him give me an even more obvious hint in the next.
That said, I don’t feel like a puzzle game has to be challenging to be meaningful or fun. The puzzles in this game were used—to great effect—to immerse you in the narrative and make you feel like part of the story. I think it was a smart decision on the creators’ parts to err on the side of ease in order to ensure that the narrative continued to move forward without much in the way of impediment.
This is an easy game to recommend to anyone who likes their games to have a great narrative and wants to see it done using a very novel storytelling method and wants to enjoy a tasty desert while doing so.
If you’re looking solely for a game with challenging puzzles that will test your solving prowess, this may not be the game for you. Though you will be missing out on a really neat narrative presentation.