College is a wild and wonderful time for many people. You will get a taste of freedom, you will open your eyes to new experiences, meet a lot of new people and, finally, take small steps into the real mature world. What if these little steps feel like they are diving into the deep end of a pool without being able to swim? This feeling of being overwhelmed, desperate and lost is not uncommon among 20-year-olds in today’s world. In Humble Grove’s minimalist adventure, No Longer Home, we can immerse ourselves in the world of two people in the midst of this period of confusion.
No Longer Home is a glimpse into the world of the main characters ao and Bo. Both are new art school graduates who are struggling to find work and cope with a tumultuous life situation. In a London apartment, Ao and Bo live with the rest of their roommates on the day of their move and struggle to see their own paths.
Things get even more complicated, because Ao is in London on a visa that expires soon and you have to return to Japan. These actions are addressed and dealt with by the two main characters throughout the game in long conversations and observations. There are slight point-and-click adventure elements, but the priority of the game is on the conversations that need to be conducted.
The two main characters, Ao and Bo, are non-binary and the game explains this and their feelings well in the prologue. Their identities and their struggles associated with a non-conforming genre are subtly screened during the game. Often they manifest themselves in small interactions, such as not being able to see their true self in the mirror or to reflect aspects of their upbringing and how it conflicts with their current life.
There are also metaphysical manifestations in the form of strange monsters representing the mental demons of the characters. Enter to point out the characters’ mistakes, upset them and stay as a permanent reminder that they can’t shake themselves. This aspect of no longer being at home, although sparse and discreet for the main plot, is extraordinarily well done.
To say that No Longer Home is a journey of self-discovery would pay homage to the game much more unreasonable. Few things are really discovered by the cast, which was not already obvious and addressed. It’s more like 2 hours during which the main characters retreat and hide while having daily conversations with their peers until the end of the game.
No Longer Home can not get rid of the feeling that this is a vanity project of an art school graduate, but there is simply not enough meat on the bones of the story to carry it through its short duration. It almost feels like presumption is flowing, the story jumps between 2 characters filing complaints about their housing situation, job search, the lack of viability of an art degree in the economic climate, the new railway system in London, and all kinds of meandering small conversations between the two. If something happens that you think will spice up the story in an important way, such as finding a floating ball in the bedroom with not-known geometric shapes, it will simply be deserted and will never be discussed again to allow more small conversations.
No Longer Home loves its small talk so much that at some point all the tenants of the house gather to play a video game, and it ends with a text analysis adventure game that avoids magical scenarios for deeper and meandering thoughts about life. In the game in a game, the character finds a cave in the forest with an elevator that takes him to an art school that rents classrooms as Apartments. This is literally such an annoying revelation that I thought the game was joking, but it is played as completely serious.
Thoughts about this game will depend a lot on where the player is in his own life. I can see how No Longer Home can resonate with a group of people in their early twenties who have recently graduated from college and feel lost in the bigger scheme of things. When you are older and you have passed this point, like me, everything feels like a deep conversation that is repeated on all levels. If you have been through this point in life or have been through it for a while, there is nothing in No Longer Home that you have not heard and dealt with several times.
There are parts of No Longer Home that I like. The approach to gender and mental health is very well presented. However, it seems that these pieces are just a small thread of a larger tapestry, which is simply not very interesting. Most of the conversations are either painfully boring, or strive to talk deeply and philosophically about the concept of life under capitalism. It’s the video game equivalent of reading a Twitter feed about residential development and availability. Usually a short time for a game can seem like a burden, but I felt relieved to see the credits roll because it meant I no longer had to listen to art students talk about leaving London.