Being handed the reins of a popular franchise must be a pretty daunting task. Over and over we’ve seen the successors to beloved franchises try and fail to make lightning strike twice, sowing contention and bitter resentment among established fans of whichever property they were ‘lucky’ enough to inherit. When The Chinese Room, creators of Dear Esther, were chosen to create a sequel to indie horror darling Amnesia: The Dark Descent the pressure to recreate that game’s terrifying magic must have been intense. A less courageous developer would have tried to give fans of that game everything they expected; instead we got a game that gives us almost nothing we expected out of an Amnesia sequel, but offers far more in return. The Chinese Room has created something astonishing in A Machine For Pigs- an atmospheric, horrific, darkly beautiful interactive story.
Take a look around the room you’re in right now. Have a wander around your house or apartment or whatever you’ve got. Try to look at it through the eyes of a stranger. The expired milk left out in the kitchen, the stack of old bills on the windowsill. What sort of story does your home tell? Is it one you’d want other people to hear?
This is more or less the position that both the player and Kaitlin Greenbriar find themselves in at the beginning of Gone Home, the debut title from the exquisitely named Fullbright Company. Kaitlin has arrived back in America after a year traipsing around Europe, to the palatial new house her parents and younger sister Sam moved into while she was away. Upon arriving she discovers that all is apparently not well- the house is empty and there’s a note from Sam taped to the front door begging Kaitlin not to find her or tell their parents where she’s gone. It’s up to you to explore the Greenbriar home, unearthing clues to solve the mystery of both your sister’s whereabouts and the events over the previous year that have led to this situation.
There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle recently in the internet literary world over book genres. Some people get very mad at the suggestion that such and such a book is fantasy or sci-fi, while others throw a hissy fit if you claim such and such a book isn’t fantasy or sci-fi. The one thing everyone can agree on is that you should count your lucky stars your favourite genre novel isn’t being lumped into the Young Adult (YA) basket with the sparkly vampires and bland 1984 rip-offs.
Now I’d like to provide my two cents on that last point. Speaking as someone who reads and enjoys books aimed at teenagers and even children, I think YA has a lot of admirable qualities that adult fiction (even adult “literary fiction”) could learn a thing or two from. The label of YA or “YA-ish” is often derogatory, but it doesn’t have to be.
I just wanted to get that out of the way because unfortunately in the case of Mistborn, it totally is.