Sidequest was provided with a copy of No Longer Home for Mac in exchange for a fair and honest review.
No Longer Home is a game that popped into my awareness at a time of transition. I graduated from my MFA in May, I turned 30 in August, and for the next year, I’ll be writing full-time. There’s a certain amount of uncertainty in my life right now, and that sort of uncertainty, the type that appears when one’s in a liminal space, is at the center of No Longer Home.
No Longer Home
PC, Mac, Linux
No Longer Home is a point-and-click slice-of-life game following Bo and Ao, two nonbinary young adults who have just graduated college. The story takes place in London; both are moving back home, Bo still in London, but Ao back to Japan. The setting is the last few days in their apartment; boxes lay stacked in rooms that have been or are about to be vacated. The majority of the game takes place during the last barbecue the two host for their group of friends, and the player wanders around as sometimes Bo and sometimes Ao, touring the apartment and musing on the chapter coming to a close, wondering what’s in store next.
The conversations Bo and Ao have—with each other, with other friends, and with themselves—feel reminiscent of emerging adulthood, the stage of life (in some cultures, like in the US) between being an adolescent but before feeling like a “real adult.” Having graduated university, neither Bo nor Ao have specific plans or even a direction for what comes next (although both Bo and Ao are a lot more aware of social issues than I was at their age). “There are just so many paths and they’re all overlapping,” complains Bo at the beginning of the game, “and it isn’t clear where they lead at all!” As Bo and Ao are both artists, their uncertainty feels especially poignant, compared to the friends who visit who have jobs or the neighbors who complain loudly about going to work. All of these moments, whether humorous or serious, are treated gently, although with underlying gravitas even when the specific moment is lighthearted.
Indeed, so much of this game is treated with tenderness, from Bo and Ao’s conversation in the prologue about gender to their later thoughts about mental health. Although it’s unnamed, Bo seems to have depression—they say things like “Everything just feels really flat right now” and have had difficulty keeping up with household tasks lately. Ao wonders if they have ADHD, but dismisses it as, “Nah, I’m just lazy; everyone knows it.” With the intense care in the dialogue and Ao’s follow-up thought that there would be too many hoops to jump through in regards to diagnosis, it seems clear they’re repeating back a common narrative they’ve internalized, rather than the developers making a comment about ADHD. I appreciate the conversations they have with themselves but also all that is unsaid—these are not two young adults who have figured things out, but ones who feel like they’re flailing in the dark.
In many respects, playing No Longer Home feels a lot like playing Night in the Woods, which is also about liminality and change from a so-called decided plan. NitW’s irreverence belies a seriousness with which it approaches these issues, particularly when it deals with mental health. In a similar manner, No Longer Home moves between a fatalistic but tongue-in-cheek sense of doom in our profit-driven, cisheteronormative, white supremacist, capitalistic society to genuine discussion of young people’s places in such a world, particularly when their existences challenge those norms. The gameplay between the two games is different, but they’re having similar conversations about how deviations from expectations—whether those expectations come from society, our families and friends, or ourselves—shake our understanding of who we are, where we’re going, and who we might become.
No Longer Home is a game that would have really spoken to me five years ago. At the end of 2016, I left my PhD program and moved across the country to join my then-new husband while he started a master’s program to change his career. I felt unmoored in my life, untethered to anyone in my new home, and deeply depressed. What was I going to do with myself, now that I’d left my career as a scientist, a “useful” career? How was I going to make writing work? I found solace in games, even though those games didn’t speak to my situation. Despite the differences, No Longer Home would have resonated deeply with what I was going through, more so than the sorts of uncertainty I’m dealing with now.
Still, this game is so sweet. I enjoyed the geometric art style, the eerie and haunting music. I could tell there was more I could get from the game, too, were I to dig in—there seemed to be symbolism in things I didn’t really take the time to ponder (for example, weeds overgrow everything, and that can be read in different ways). Unfortunately, either because of the game itself or, more likely, because of my ever-aging MacBook Pro, the game ran slowly for me, taking about three hours to complete (although I don’t think I played through three hours of content). I managed to make it through to the end, but the buggy nature of the images sliding in and out of the screen, the slow text, and the delayed response time made it difficult to focus on the details.
Besides what I believe to be a hardware issue, there were a couple of elements that I think could have been streamlined. Because there is no overarching plot, the lack of urgency meant I got the gist of the game pretty quickly. To be clear, not every story needs external urgency to drive it forward. But the game was a bit meandering in a way that made it difficult to focus on—I wasn’t trying to solve a mystery, or otherwise have something driving me forward to keep playing. My favorite part of the game is actually when Bo turns on a video game console, and they and their friends control a person walking through the woods, looking for somewhere to stay. Even having a goal for this side moment helped drive the gameplay forward. It didn’t help that many of the conversations are repetitive. Musings Ao would have in the bathroom, for example, looking at the mirror, would later be repeated to Bo, and vice-versa. All of their conversations revolve around the same uncertainty, and there is little deviation when that topic comes back around.
The final element that left me a bit confused was the speculative aspect in the game. At times, a sort of cosmic horror-like event would happen, and I wasn’t sure whether these were metaphorical. Ao speaks to a green, horned alien named Gi who lambasts them. “You can cut the act,” Gi says. “I know you don’t actually care. We can’t even love ourselves; you think we’re capable of loving others? Don’t make me laugh. How many people have you hurt, simply by existing?” Gi seems to echo back Ao’s worst fears and bits of themself, and Bo is unable to go into the room Gi sits in, watching TV. But if this moment is metaphorical, a conversation Ao is having with themself, it’s never elaborated on nor explained. Furthermore, the other speculative events that happen are also treated with as much nonchalance, leaving me wondering what they’re doing at all.
Despite this, No Longer Home is a beautiful, thoughtful game. It feels like it belongs in this time and place, with the conversations lots of us are having, although I’m sure the post-college concerns are ones that will continue to resonate with new generations of students. With a faster computer, I’d play it again to see whether some of my questions end up resolving, but even without, I’m happy to have spent the hours with Humble Grove and the glimpse into the devs’ lives.
By day, Sidequest’s Managing Editor Naseem Jamnia used to do sciencey things, but they now slam their keyboard and call it art. By night, they play a lot of video games. And regardless of the time, they spend way too much of it on Twitter, @jamsternazzy.