It’s a bit weird to be talking about grieving a space with four walls while for the past year we’ve spent most of our days cooped up in our own places. But even just for a little while, No Longer Home gently presses pause and rewinds back to youthful, post-uni days.
It’s a magical and awkward period of time for anyone – when adulthood kicks in and life as we knew it fades out. Developers Humble Grove built the game over several years and miles apart, making No Longer Home a living, breathing semi-autobiographical experience.
No Longer Home is available for PC and Mac on Steam, for your regional pricing.
Story – Restless Youth
We follow the last days of Ao and Bo at their South London flat. Both have graduated from university and seem to be falling deep into the despair of not knowing what comes after.
Ao and Bo are foils – while they are both artists and unsure of their future, they come from different personalities. Ao is free-spirited, messy, and figuring out how to move forward as their student visa expires, and Bo is more organized and tries to methodically approach the future. Many people may be able to relate to one or both, allowing players to fill in their shoes as they walk around their flat.
Writing-wise, the text-heavy game did a decent job of fleshing out the story without drowning the player in lines. The dialogue is so deeply personal that it feels like being swept up in a conversation at a party. The characters feel real and choosing through lines of different people a la Kentucky Route Zero gave the little chats a dynamic element.
The most poignant conversation in the game revolves around both protagonist’s inability and reluctance to conform to society’s standards. It’s clear-cut that both characters identify as non-binary, openly revealing their questioning and self-discovery to each other through the introductory chapter Friary Road. It’s incredibly validating to see this kind of conversation represented in media, and even though I could not relate to most of Ao and Bo’s troubles, I found myself, for lack of a better term, seen.
Gameplay – Homebound
No Longer Home is a straightforward point-and-click game. There are no puzzles or checkpoints. You progress through the story at your own pace, observing the little things about the flat. You switch between the two protagonists and scale the same flat, and they both have different things to say and memories to reminisce about in each corner of the apartment. This melancholic romp through rooms is a visual treat, thanks to the beautiful isometric art.
Despite everything it has going for it, No Longer Home is a painfully slow visual novel. Visually, there isn’t too much that changes throughout each scene as either protagonist. The slow movements of the characters exaggerate the pace of the game. In effect, I think I was wandering through the place just to figure out where to go next. One thing I wish could have been done is to incentivize the player to explore, outside of moving the story forward. I may have ended a scene too soon without realizing I had more to see.
What I do appreciate is that the title doesn’t shoehorn gameplay mechanics into its run. Many narrative games do that for fear that they will lose the player’s attention; however, I found myself wanting to keep pressing forward and learning about the state of the two protagonists as they watch their old life whittle away into a memory.
I did enjoy the creative ways the game took the narrative to flesh out more of the environment and the lives Ao and Bo lived the past three years. Diving into the text parsing adventure and meeting magical creatures in the flat were thoughtful surprises. Other than that, picking out the points of interest within the scenes is a more chill experience. It was a nice touch to add audio and visual cues to the memories, but I wish they could have gone into more mundane details about the physical space instead of diving into their thoughts. I love it when places are characters within the story, and I fully expected the flat to have some more personality.
Audio and Graphics – Audiovisual Shoegaze
No Longer Home employs a visually striking representation of Ao and Bo’s apartment – giving a magic realist touch to their humble abode. Isometric and low-poly, it was interesting to explore the apartment from all the angles that you are given. I loved the realistic touch they gave the student flat – messy desks, packed kitchens, and a bang-up job of feeding an extension cord from the house through the window to power your party tunes.
The moody color palette is broken into with dashes of bright colors, resulting in a textured mix that makes No Longer Home such a delight to look at. Though simple, the art is detailed and the presentation is so tight. Every scene you walk through feels like a diorama set against the night sky, lending to the idea that these moments of goodbye stretch space and time.
If the story doesn’t bring you back to moving-out days of yore, then the soundtrack might. I swear this was the kind of stuff I listened to while studying in college. It’s low-key and relaxing – the perfect accompaniment to the story unraveling in the game. The ethereal electro will make you feel like lying down in the grass with a loved one, letting yourself be wrapped in the light of the stars. This is the kind of music that solidifies the most tender moments, both in fiction and in reality.
No Longer Home was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Evolve PR.