“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere” -Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)
Three Fourths Home is classified as a visual novel. It is a narrative driven, interactive experience developed by Bracket Games. You step into the shoes of a young lady named Kelly. The game picks up in rural Nebraska on the side of the road. The game begins when you start to drive back to her parents house. On the ride home you experience the story through written text of a phone conversation between Kelly and her family. It is established early that there has been some strain on their relationship and over the next few hours you unpack that story along with Kelly on her ride home.
Three Fourths Home is presented in a very minimalist art design with almost no interactive features in the game. You start the game inside of a car, just sitting still. You pull the right trigger to start driving, and in the same manner, you can let go of the trigger and stop the car. The game only progresses while you are driving. As the car is moving you get a phone call. The car is traveling on the top half of the screen, while the bottom half is stark white for showing text. All the conversation in the game is text based. What’s being said to you appears on the lower left side of the screen, while your responses are in the lower right. Most of the time, you will have multiple options to choose from when responding. For example, your mom might ask how far away from the house you are and you can choose between: I don’t know, 5 miles, or don’t worry about it. You also have the ability to honk the horn with the Right Button and Change the Radio with the “Y” button. “X” forwards the conversation and “A” selects your dialogue…and that’s it.
The Xbox One version of Three Fourths Home is called the “Extended Edition.” The release includes a 30 minute (or so) epilogue. You can play the epilogue or story in whatever order you choose, but there is value to playing the story first. The epilogue puts you in Minnesota prior to Kelly returning home to Nebraska. Saying any more would ruin the story, but there are very important bits that play out in the epilogue and enrich the full story as a result.
There aren’t really any technical issues to speak of. The game looks and plays great. It’s really hard to be critical of a game with almost no gameplay. I will say that the one complaint that I have is that you literally have to hold the trigger to play the game. If you let go of the trigger the car stops and so does the story. After an hour of playing, I found myself pausing the game just to give my finger a break. I understand wanting to give you some interaction in the process, but I would have preferred just pressing a button to start driving rather than having to hold that button for the entirety of the game.
Along with the game and epilogue, you also have access to several extras. There is a music player that will basically let you load up and play the entire soundtrack if you’d like There is also a photo report supposedly by Kelly for school. The photo report consists of real photos, some of which have direct relation to the story told. Finally there are stories available for you to read. During the course of the game you discover that Kelly’s younger brother writes. In the Extras there are about half a dozen stories he wrote that you can read. If you read them after you’ve played the game, there are little bits in each one that will mean more.
For a visual novel, the most important thing to nail is the story and that is where Three Fourths Home shines. You quickly feel right at home in Kelly’s shoes as she interacts with her Mother, Father, and younger brother. There are deep rooted issues that resonate in very personal ways. The writing is very smart to give you enough of the story so you can follow but also leaves quite a bit open for your own interpretation. By the end of the game you will have probably laughed and cried and will probably want to go hug your mother. To feel moved by a video game is one of the highest compliments I can give any game, and when I set the controller down after completing the epilogue, I was moved.
Three Fourths Home is not for everyone. It’s a choose your own adventure book that forces you to hold down a button for the entire 2-4 hours of gameplay. However, if you can look past that what you are presented with is an honest, sometimes uncomfortable, and very personal story that should be experienced.