No Longer Home
You’ve no doubt heard some variation of the James Joyce quote, that “in the particular is contained the universal.” It was Joyce’s explanation for why all his stories were set in and around Dublin. No Longer Home might be more particular even than that. It practically gives you the postal address of the South London flat within which it is set – or, possibly, imprisoned. You rarely leave its four walls, except for the odd foray into the garden: overgrown, with a rusted barbecue and pallets stacked as makeshift furniture.
As it happens, we’ve walked these streets in real life. We have had versions of many of the conversations that make up your main interactions with the game. We have certainly lived in student houses with rusted barbecues out the back. We find ourselves nodding in recognition at the extension cable trailing out of a kitchen window to power a pair of garden-party speakers, the description of a bathroom towel left wet for so long the spores have blossomed into mould. But whether or not the specifics resonate, the heart of this semi-autobiographical tale – the universal pain of parting – surely will.
It’s the story of Ao and Bo, two art school students who you control (both on foot and in conversation) almost interchangeably, an indication of how closely bonded the pair are. But on top of the usual graduation worries about what’s next, Ao faces the expiry of their student visa and a return to Japan, possibly for good. It’s a situation drawn from the real lives of lead developers Cel Davison and Hana Lee, now based in London and Tokyo respectively, but it serves nicely as a ticking bomb that lends urgency to the most mundane of conversations and concerns.
Among all the fretting about gas bills and eulogies to chicken nuggets abandoned in the freezer, things do start to get a little more heightened. Every part of the flat is decaying and being reclaimed by nature to an extent that occasionally resembles Annihilation’s Area X. Behind some of its doors, meanwhile, are unusual housemates whose many-eyed forms we suspect don’t feature in the real-life story.
This blend of magical and social realism owes a lot to Kentucky Route Zero, as does the way the point-andclick adventuring is presented. So much so, in fact, that the game itself makes a cameo here, complete with a reprise of one of its more famous choices. No Longer Home is considerably slighter than that game, at least in its eventual form, and the story – perhaps inevitably, given its nature – ebbs out more than truly ends. While the details and relationships are sharply observed, everything around them is a little fuzzy. But then so is the moment it’s trying to reflect.