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Video Game / Homesick (2015)

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Homesick is an Environmental Narrative Game, developed by Lucky Pause and released on May 28th, 2015 for PC through Steam.

It opens In Medias Res, with the protagonist waking up in a heavily deteriorated building. They may or may not know the reasons why they are there; however, the player most certainly doesn't, and so is left with nothing to do besides searching for clues to understand what happened. Moreover, while in most games of this type books and other notes could be relied upon to shed the light on the story, here, they are frequent, but are invariably written in a clearly alien language. The first recognisable thing you find is a vague child's drawing of a person and some flowers. Just what exactly happened in this world?

It is not to be confused with Homesick (2012), which is a freeware 2D Survival Horror game.


Tropes present in this game:

  • Ambiguous Ending: The final dream is the only one that's in color and has the protagonist walk out of the building (which is reduced to a single room in the dream) and into a sunlit grass field. After taking a few steps, they turn their gaze to the sky and look at that childhood drawing as floats upwards. The End. Some consider it a Dying Dream, but it's hard to say anything for sure.
  • An Axe to Grind: Every time you water the flowers and go to sleep after looking a picture, you'll be carrying an axe in your dream. However, it is only ever used to cut down doors during the dream, which are then open during the "real-world" segments.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Whenever you go to sleep after watering the flowers, the colors in the dream sequences become so sepia-toned they are practically black-and-white.
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  • Featureless Protagonist: Played straight at first, since you cannot see yourself. The one exception is the yawning sound heard whenever the player goes to sleep, which is clearly male. Then, The player finally sees themselves in the mirror by the end, and it turns out they have mutated.
  • First-Person Ghost: Played straight. You don't even see any hand extending when interacting with the other items: a key simply extends from the right corner of the screen, then slides into the lock and turns when clicked on, seemingly of its own volition.
  • Green Aesop: First, there's the repeated symbolism of watering flowers growing through the cracks in the concrete floor. Then, Once the player character regains the ability to read, going back and reading the papers will tell you about a fossil fuel power plant that was enthusiastically built in the area in spite of the environmental groups' protests, about the efforts to downplay research showing pollution affected humans worse than anyone thought, and that failing to evacuate during an accident on the station will leave a person disfigured and semi-comatose. A paper explaining that an accident did in fact happen, a list on the wall showing employees' names, and a glimpse of the player in the mirror outright confirm that the player is a former power plant worker who got survived the accident only to get mutated to the point they can barely comprehend text anymore.
  • Heroic Mime: The protagonist never speaks.
  • The Igor: Invoked. Once the player regains the ability to read, one of The New Times issues has a classified ad that goes "WANTED: Slow witted Sidekick to assist with Evil Schemes. Prior experience with Death-Rays essential." Another ad asks for "lizard minions." It's a jarring moment of levity given the seriousness of the rest of the papers.
  • Magic Realism: The entire game has a very down-to-earth , except for repeated examples. The first is whenever you water the flowers growing through the cracks in the building's floor, and they instantly go from wilting to bright, healthy and a good deal taller as well. This happens to the flowers in the entire room as well, even though you have only watered one patch. At one point, whole patches of grass mysteriously emerge, along with a decently sized tree.
    • The second example of magical realism immediately follows the first, as your character invariably becomes very tired after making flora bloom in this manner, and goes to sleep on a nearby old and decaying bed/couch/mattress (after first looking at the child's drawing of themselves and flowers). You are then thrown into a Dream Sequence where you wake up at the same spot at night, everything is dark and monochrome, there are inky blots coalescing all over the floor, and you suddenly gain an axe. You use that axe to cut down the latest door in your way...and then you wake up, seemingly normally and without an axe, and find that the very same door you cut down in your dream is now open.
  • Pamphlet Shelf: The many books you find around the building all look like normal, hardcover 200-400 page examples, but invariably have 2-3 pages at most. However, they are all written in a language no human can understand, so it hardly matters. That is, until you regain your ability to read words through interacting with the letter cubes, and the documents morph into the normal English.
  • Scenery Gorn: The building you are in is a more subtle example, since rather than being damaged by war or some disaster, it was simply allowed to decay from age, and the game portrays that with every single texture.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Subverted, as the letters and books that would normally act in this manner are unreadable. However, finding all of the children's letter cubes replaces the squiggles with normal letters, allowing you to understand the notes again. They are evenly split between family letters about the protagonist's sister and how they were adopted, and "The New Times" newspapers revealing snippets of information about the world.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": An example so blatant it potentially crosses into reverse psychology. On the second day of exploration, you discover filing cabinets, the top locker of which is always protected by a 4-number code lock. The correct answer is...the locker's own number, right next to the lock. (i.e. a locker labelled 53 will have a code of 0053.) It seems like whoever came up with the code either did not want to memorize it, and/or decided to hope that the others would overthink it and dismiss the solution staring them in the face as too obvious. Once you regain the ability to read, a note just says the writer wanted it to be easy to remember.
    • One other lacks the number, but has the code written on a piece of paper attached to the cabinet's side instead. Though you'll only be able to read it after interacting with the letter cubes, which will morph the meaningless squiggles on that paper into normal English.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Invoked, as during the second-to-last dream, you finally find a mirror, and see the mutated, weathered face of the main character. This also explains why they were unable to read plain text for so long - their mental capabilities degraded so much that only letter cubes designed for infants could bring their memories of how to read back. If you have gone back to read the notes, you would have also learnt that the health consequences of failing to evacuate during "a real emergency" on a power plant - "coma, sensitivity to sunlight, muscle weakness, bubbling of the skin, necrosis" - perfectly match what has happened to your character.
  • You Wake Up in a Room: The opening literally has the player character wake up in a grey concrete room of a building that was obviously abandoned long ago, and the first thing they see is a ceiling covered in grey, heavily peeled paint with a rusty, broken fan. The rest of the room is not much better, with equally eroded white paint on the furniture, cupboards' covers not aligning properly, and most tellingly, wildflowers growing through the cracks in the concrete floor.


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