When I got back into gaming in 2104, it was in part to find out that games were sidelining convention, blurring lines separating it from other audio-visual media, and that indie studios had finally started making stuff at par with AAA titles in both content and presentation. Three Fourths Home, an hour long indie game/Visual Novel epitomises one of the directions video games are headed.
Made by a single person (with music provided by his brother), Three Fourths Home can be considered an interactive VN. The protagonist, Kelly, had driven out to her grandparents’ barn (somewhere in rural Nebraska) and is now about to drive back home. She gets a call from her mom as she is getting in the car who tells her that there is a storm incoming and she should head back as soon as she can. The story follows her conversation with her family as she drives back through an ever worsening storm. Yes, the whole game (clocking in at around an hour if you are a fast reader) is her, talking on the phone (with branching conversations, of course) as she drives back.
The first thing that will catch your attention is the extremely minimalist aesthetic which extends to the game mechanics, allowing you to focus on the conversation and your responses instead of putting a lot of effort in doing things. The basic ‘playing’ involves pressing the right arrow key so that the car keeps moving while advancing the conversation using two more keys. That is essentially all you need to do to get through the game. Of course, there are a couple of nifty touches in it all. If you take your hand off the arrow key, the car stops and time freezes and the conversation pauses exactly like a cassette tape winding down. Press the keys again, and the tape starts rolling.
There are no voices in the game, the conversations being wholly text based. However, the rest of the sound design more than makes up for it. I wonder how this game would have played with voice acting, and I think this is the way it should be for maximum impact. As the game progresses, the sound of rain and hurricane sirens grow louder as the storm worsens and brings to the game a sense of urgency which is mirrored by the conversation for the most part. At any point, you can turn on the radio, which plays the OST of the game composed by the Neutrino Effect. Post rock instrumentals, the 12 track OST on the radio adds a crucial dimension to the experience.
You must have noticed that I haven’t really said much about the story so far. It’s an hour long conversation, but it is well written enough that you would want to go right back and find out what would have happened had you said something else. I played the main game thrice, and the epilogue (which multiplies the emotional impact and goes straight for the feels) at least five times, trying to get some closure.
I don’t know whether the story would resonate with everyone. It did with me because I wasn’t expecting it to go certain ways, and because of the rain in the background (most of you know how I feel about rain). People try to place themselves in a story, trying to relate to it more, but it almost seemed that the dev took the things that elicit a reaction from me and threw them into making a game. This felt personal on multiple levels.
Who should play this game? People who like stories, or the rain. Ones who turn on music on long drives.
Who should not play this game? Ones expecting a ‘game’ with action/conventional gameplay. People who don’t like long conversations.
The first thing I did when I completed the epilogue was call home. I’m so much more farther than three fourths home, but this game can do that to you…