Three Fourths Home, the first visual game by developer [bracket] games, is a beautiful piece of interactive fiction. As a finalist for the IGF’s Excellence in Narrative award, Three Fourths Home is a balancing act between game and story, between driving and speaking, and between truth and fiction. Available now for PC and Mac, this game is a worthwhile experience for those who like interactive fiction and branching narrative, but gameplay won’t inspire or challenge many players.
Three Fourths Home Weaves a Complicated Story
The player, twenty-something Kelly, is on a long drive home. Whatever history you craft for your version of Kelly, it becomes obvious very quickly that she has a strained relationship with her family. Her mother is frequently biting and sarcastic while her father self-medicates; her brother’s mental illness casts a vague but lingering shadow over family interactions. Three Fourths Home doesn’t offer you a lot of answers—almost none, in fact—but it does offer a realistic view of the ways families speak to one another, blending secrets with facts in ways that only make sense to the participants.
The wide Nebraska cornfields provide a unique backdrop for the game. They’re desolate but thriving, unique but plain, a perfect complement to Kelly’s family. And when a storm kicks up and grows in intensity, so do your feelings about the situation. You can’t fix the relationships any more than you can stop the storm—all you can do is keep moving forward, advancing the conversation and hoping you can figure it all out in the end.
Spoiler alert: you can’t. There are some things that can’t be fixed. All you can do is understand; an option the game affords you without forcing it upon you. This is one game where exploring the additional menu options and replaying multiple times will enhance your appreciation of the narrative. While you’ll always come to the same end, each playthrough will help you navigate the conversation a little better, just as reliving a memory will.
The writing in Three Fourths Home is beautiful, although reading the dynamic gray text may strain the eyes a bit at times. The dialog is elegantly crafted and realistic, and Kelly’s brother’s short stories are an excellent way to flesh out the family’s character without using a ham-fisted approach. It encourages the kind of understanding that comes from analyzing a situation after the fact, making it a flawless way to approach the story’s holes and questions.
While Interactivity is Necessary, it’s far from Perfect in Three Fourths Home
Three Fourths Home is an interesting example of the interactive fiction/video game divide. While it absolutely has to be a game—the combination of visual, audio, writing, and interactivity require this medium—there’s very little for the player to do.
To advance, you have to hold down either the right arrow or ‘d’ key, otherwise all progression stops. So prepare for some finger cramps. While this mechanic makes sense—forcing you to manage your interactions along with your car progression, just like when you have a conversation while driving—it feels like too little, until it’s too much. As it stands, holding a key down to drive is a tedious way of getting the point across when you’re much more focused on the conversation.
Adding more complications like having to steer or follow directions would definitely complicate the driving, but also distract from the necessarily slow pace. It’s hard to say whether that would be an improvement or just a distraction, but as it is, it treads a very thin line between being too much and too little gameplay, and sometimes feels like it leans too heavily to one side or the other.
Three Fourths Home is a simple game— you can’t lose. But you can’t really win, either. All you can do is see it through to the end and fill in your own ideas about what “success” means in this context. Those who want a traditional game experience with wins, losses, and challenges aren’t going to find it in this game.
Three Fourths Home Provides Story and Not Much Else
There’s a lot to like about Three Fourths Home. It’s the kind of game that makes you think. It’s the kind of game that makes you want to force others to play it so you can talk to them about it, and collectively tap into the moody, melancholic heart of it. It’s a perfect example of using game mechanics to tell a story, while also sometimes stumbling to do it well.
If story and interactive fiction interest you, and if you like musing on regret and memory and family, you’ll find something to like in Three Fourths Home.
Three Fourths Home is available now for $6.99 through Steam or the game’s website.