You know what I can’t resist? Horror games on PlayStation VR. Whilst I’ve been a fan of the genre ever since laying my eyes on the original Resident Evil in my younger years, the added immersion of virtual reality has made it more engrossing now than ever before. Sure, the PlayStation VR catalogue can be a bit of a mixed bag as far as providing scares is concerned, but when a developer gets it right the results can be utterly terrifying.
Thankfully, Home Sweet Home is one of the better examples of horror on PlayStation VR, with it offering an intense first-person experience that’ll have you on edge as you escape the grasp of a vicious spirit. It can also be played traditionally on a TV for those who don’t have PlayStation VR, though my entire experience with the game was spent in virtual reality… I’m very brave. It’s only playable with a DualShock controller with traditional first-person controls though, so you won’t be reaching out and grabbing things with Move controllers here.
You take on the role of Tim, a man who wakes up in a daze in a strange room. How did he get there? What is he doing there? Who knows. The only thing he really remembers is that he has a partner named Jane who has gone missing and that he’s desperate to find her. Fortunately, Tim sees a woman ahead of him who might be able to help him out, but when it turns out she’s a horrifying being that’s covered in blood and eager to kill him with a box cutter, Tim slowly finds himself trying to escape her grasp instead.
In many ways it’ll feel like a very predictable plot to just about anyone who has played horror games before, but the way that it incorporates Thai myths and encourages the player to uncover collectibles in the environment to flesh things out ensures that it feels fresh and interesting. There’s a lot more going on than it initially seems and it’s certainly intriguing to discover the truth behind Tim’s dire situation.
Tim isn’t really well-prepared to defend himself against a malevolent spirit, so most of your time in the game will be spent trying to outrun her and hide instead. Each of the game’s environments are made up of a variety of hallways and rooms, so there’s always somewhere to escape to when you’re being pursued. Admittedly, the vicious girl who’s hunting you down isn’t particularly clever, so she may not notice you in plain sight whilst she also won’t investigate any of the lockers you might be hiding in, but it’s still daunting to know that she’s on the prowl (and believe me, she makes her presence known throughout).
What’s also daunting is all of the things that go bump in the night. Whilst you’ll always know that the spirit could be hiding around the corner (or ready to burst out of one of the bloody patches in the wall she uses to get around), it’s the things like the slamming doors, the moving objects, and the eerie sounds that’ll put you on edge the most. More often than not it’s the fear of the unknown that’s most frightening in horror games, and it’s an area in which Home Sweet Home really excels.
Of course, whilst hiding is imperative to your survival, you’ve also got to find your way to freedom. Most of the time this means finding items in the environment, be it keys to get through a locked door or cutters to get through a big lock – you know, the standard stuff you find in a horror game. Using the items you find is easy with the game automatically performing interactions with a button press on locked doors and whatnot, so it means there’s no faffing around with item menus. Believe me, you’ll appreciate it when you’re being chased and trying to outrun your pursuer to the exit. There are a few puzzles to encounter on your way too, though they’re all simple in design and won’t push your skills too much.
That being said, searching for the items you need can be a bit of a pain at times. Whilst the environments you explore aren’t too large, there are plenty of different rooms where you’ll have to explore every nook and cranny in order to find everything. The thing is, with the constant fear that being pursued brings, you’ve often got to be quick when searching or may even have to wait for the spirit to go away before you get the chance to look around. There’s also a lack of direction, meaning you don’t always know where you need to look either – it’s not a huge problem, but could still prove annoying on a few occasions.
Home Sweet Home could also be a bit guilty of being repetitive, with the same gameplay cycle repeated until you finish the game. The unravelling story and intriguing locales do enough to keep you interested, but all you really do in the game is hunt for items, hide, and try to escape. Fortunately, it’ll only take around four to five hours to complete the game, so it’s not so long that it begins to outstay its welcome.
Besides, the creepy vibe of Home Sweet Home makes it all worthwhile anyway. The environments are all eerily designed and look good in the PlayStation VR headset, whilst the ambient sounds and constant sense of dread will really absorb you into the horror experience. It might be repetitive in design, but you won’t care too much since it does such a good job of frightening you.
Horror fans won’t want to miss out on Home Sweet Home, with the creepy environments, the haunting sound design, and the constant sense of dread whilst playing in virtual reality all coming together nicely to make for what can often be a terrifying gameplay experience. It can be guilty of being repetitive at times and the lack of direction can be frustrating, but seeing the dark tale unravel as you work to escape will do enough to keep you hooked in until the very end.
Developer: Yggdrazil Group
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift