PAX East is one of (if not) the most notable gaming-centric conventions on the East Coast, not only for its big presence with some of the year’s most-anticipated titles but for its incredibly strong pull in gathering indie developers together and showing off games that might get missed by the average gamer.
This year was no exception, and may have had the strongest lineup at PAX yet.
Wandering over to the Indie Megabooth section that houses the majority of the convention’s indie titles, the much-touted booth grows each and every year — so much so that it’s easy to say that indies almost had a larger presence than the “AAA blockbusters” in attendance.
Even with the towering presence of some indie breakout hits like Shovel Knight and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, the Indie Megabooth houses a number of tucked-away gems waiting to be discovered — among them being newcoming studio Lucky Pause and their debut title, Homesick.
We had the chance to take a brief run through Homesick, an exploration-based puzzle game much in the same vein as Gone Home and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, but tinged with elements of horror that underlie its puzzles and sense of emotion running beneath it.
While we only had a brief five minutes in the game’s PAX demo to explore, it already shows a title that’s steeped in mystery and drenched in tension.
Taking place in a mysterious series of rooms, the game already impresses from a first glance, even within the confines of just several minutes. The atmosphere as both melancholic and yet somewhat-strangely peaceful.
Although each room is in a world of mostly mute blacks, whites, and greys, the environments also feature important pops of color in its rooms: overgrown vegetation and plants line the floors and walls, and giant windows with blinding light bleeds into the room, blinding the player if they get too close.
As an experience definitely in the vein of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Homesick leaves little in the way of explanation or guidance other than basic controls and inventory management of items collected.
In this sense, it fully embraces its elements of exploration — players search from room to room for items and clues that can lead to the next room, while uncovering more of the story as time goes on.
Starting with just the ripped half of a children’s drawing, the plot is vague at first but slowly unravels as new rooms are opened; from finding a key in a bookshelf to going through cabinets during the game’s day — an experience that vastly changes during its night phase.
As the player goes to sleep in one of the rooms’ beds, the nightmare phase initiates, turning the game from its Gone Home-esque roots into something more sinister and evil. Going from the sequences of exploring each room to uncover more clues and open new areas, the game shifts into a fight-or-flight situation where players avoid being chased by nightmares and hallucinations.
More importantly, clues and discoveries made during either the day or night phases will affect the other, encouraging players to venture into both aspects, even if what they experience makes them afraid to go back.
Even though our time with the title was a little limited, Homesick already seeks to provide an experience between light and dark in an interesting, alluring way. Between peace and unease, what is evil and what is good, the games provides an experience that keeps players going to places they may not want to go, but still feel compelled to keep on going.
In development by an incredibly small studio, the striking visuals and inclinations to let players explore and discover on their terms makes for a story drenched in atmosphere and filled with riddles to solve.
Home is normally the place we go to unwind and find our center — in Homesick, it becomes a place to uncover new secrets in a place you thought you knew so well.
Homesick is currently in development by Lucky Pause for PC, and with possible Mac and Linux releases down the line. The game is currently available through Steam Greenlight for PC.
Images, screenshots, and video provided by Lucky Pause.