While continuously advancing technology has allowed the gaming industry to evolve in spectacular ways, it’s also made for a much more inclusive business. Whereas sizeable studios were responsible for almost all of the games we used to play, things have changed to allow for a spectacular rise in independent development by small teams and passionate solo artists. As gamers, we appreciate the added choice, as well as the outside-of-the-box thinking that results from passionate indie developers bringing their dreams to fruition without having to worry about the stresses of multi-million dollar budgets. It’s good for us and it’s good for business, as the industry has also benefitted from this great expansion.
Without having to worry about mass appeal, indie developers have been able to release passion projects that aim to entertain certain sects of the hobby’s populace. One such example is Bracket Games’ Three Fourths Home; a game that began its life on the likes of Itch.io and Humble, before heading towards Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita as Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition.
A niche title through and through, Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition is an interactive short story that is driven forward by dialogue choices and little else. It’s the tale of a twenty-something Nebraskan woman named Kelly, who’s returned home to her parents’ meagre residence after an unsuccessful attempt at finding a place in the real world. Jobless and suffering from symptoms of depression, she finds herself back in a place that she wanted to escape, wherein she must deal with unfortunate realities including a strained relationship with her mother and a father who’s developed a love of alcohol after losing his leg in a workplace accident.
Set-up as a race against time, but mostly centred around dialogue pertaining to personal struggles and familial relationships, this unique game begins with our protagonist returning to her car after a twenty mile drive to her grandparents’ old homestead. It’s then that she receives a call from her worried mother, who wonders where her daughter has disappeared to and fears for her safety because rain has begun to fall and tornadoes are expected. The weather, it seems, wants to wreak havoc on this corn-filled part of Nebraska, and Kelly is at risk of being caught up in the worst of it.
After getting into our retro-themed car, the only thing we need to do to move is press the right trigger, which serves as the gas pedal. So long as that button is held down, the car will move from left to right and the miles we find ourselves from home will lessen. The weather will be there, threatening us, but we won’t need to worry about avoiding fallen trees or steering haphazardly out of the path of a tornado. Instead, our main focus will be on the phone call from home.
As she drives forward, Kelly and her mother talk about their lives, some personal issues and their fears about her potentially alcoholic father. That, as well as her brother’s issues, as he seems to suffer from some sort of mental illness, himself, and is unable to feel a full range of human emotions as a result. There are even occasions where we speak to the two men, but the conversation between Kelly and her mother is the crux of this game.
Similarly to Telltale’s The Walking Dead, player choice matters in Three Fourths Home. As such, what you say will invoke different outcomes via the text-based replies that appear at the bottom of the screen, below a stylized and ever-changing representation of a long and boring Nebraskan road. For instance, Kelly can choose to tell her mother to avoid bothering her dad about his alcoholism, or opt to get on his case as well.
The game’s relatively interesting storyline is very short, too, lasting only twenty or thirty minutes and concluding without real warning. Although it starts off slowly, it builds up over time and makes you care about its characters, even though it can be a bit plodding and doesn’t have the type of great ending one would hope for. It isn’t alone in this extended version, either, because a new prologue has been introduced into the fold.
Coming in at about the same length as its predecessor, the aforementioned second chapter is an oddity. It’s set in Minnesota — where Kelly went to school before moving back home — and has her waiting for a bus during a snowstorm. There, another conversation can be had with the character’s mother, although it’s possible to opt not to call home and skip that part altogether. You won’t earn credit for truly beating the prologue if you do this, but it’s up to you.
During this second conversation, it’s almost as if Kelly and her mother are looking back on the past, because they interject with comments like, “You wouldn’t have asked about that” or, “Why would that have mattered?” What it does, though, is explore the young lady’s struggles, many of which attributed to her return home. Things like poor grades, problems with her boy or girlfriend, and the feeling of isolation that comes when your friends seem to move forward in life without you.
As you play through this game and talk to its characters, you’ll learn a lot about them and discover their passions and coping mechanisms. Kelly’s brother, for example, passes his time by writing impressive short stories, whereas Kelly’s own passion was once photography. By completing the prologue and achieving certain parameters, you’ll gain access to several interesting and well-written short stories, as well as Kelly’s final photo essay. There’s also a radio that can be listened to, and it offers some solid and rather fitting songs.
At the end of the day, Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition is more of an experience than it is a game, and it’s rather unique in the way that it’s both designed and presented. The visuals are stylish, the writing is very good outside of a couple of surprising typos, and the interesting storyline isn’t afraid to deal with sensitive subject matter or explore depressing themes.
If you’re a fan of games that are different, and find yourself intrigued by this premise, then I recommend checking Bracket Games’ niche effort out. However, if a game where almost all you do is navigate conversations through text doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, then Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition definitely isn’t for you.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
As a short story turned video game, Three Fourths Home: Extended Edition is a unique and interesting experience that deals with deep themes. It is, however, not for everyone, and tends to be a bit plodding at times.