Homebody is an unassuming horror sport at first, arrange equally to latest socially anxious thrillers like Our bodies Our bodies Our bodies (2022) and All My Buddies Hate Me (2021): you’re late to satisfy up with outdated pals, they might or might not be mad, and there’s a killer, you assume. However throughout the 4 hours I spend with Recreation Grumps’ roughly seven-hour-long sport, it modifications into a powerful and summary, however nonetheless unsettling, dissection of obsessive-compulsive dysfunction.
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Emily, the protagonist I information via claustrophobic, mounted digicam angles in-third individual, is immobilized by her OCD. Her drive to the rental home her pals booked to look at the Perseids is extended by stinging what ifs—what if there’s horrible information ready in her unread texts? What if she runs out of fuel? “The cops are gonna discover me every week from now,” she predicts, “a skeletal husk behind the wheel of my automotive.”
I do know what that appears like, as a result of I even have OCD. After 14 years, I’m used to intrusive ideas polluting my mind like a loud upstairs neighbor, triggering the dysfunction’s attribute compulsions, or repetitive behaviors that appear like they’ll cease the panic, however really solely reward and reinforce a false sense of hazard. In Emily’s case, intrusive ideas about her automotive trip make her wish to keep away from it fully, and he or she pulls over.
I’ve been there. I get it. However her pals, who’ve been awaiting her arrival for hours, don’t, essentially. I chat with them as I discover the unusual, imposing home—what if this digital lock malfunctions? What if there’s no means out?—and listen to extra about their struggling artwork careers and fond school reminiscences. Emily hasn’t spoken to any of them in a 12 months, and so there are some awkward moments the place they stumble over utilizing the phrase “obsessive,” or keep away from acknowledging the truth that Emily has turn into an agoraphobic shut-in. There’s no voice appearing, solely unfurling textual content strings, so when she’s prompted to share a narrative about what she pretends is an thrilling, busy life, the very best she will do is quietly point out she went out for breakfast final week.
Then shit will get “actual,” nonetheless you wish to outline that.
Homebody is an unpredictable survival horror sport
I’m exploring the kitchen, interacting with the objects highlighted by holding down L on my Change. The home’s proprietor, Parker Nest, left behind a hefty binder with guidelines in it, although it doesn’t provide a lot in-game steering, solely quips about issues just like the “emotional charges” I’ll incur for exploring the prohibited attic. I click on the burner on, however there’s no option to flip it off—I checked. It glows deep orange and sends a tea kettle screaming, and the ability abruptly goes out.
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I hold strolling round, now with a beam of sunshine emanating from my chest, and faucet on among the sport’s many puzzles with their wires I want to attach and keycodes I’ve but to find, the sport’s mysteries locked away behind them. Necessary clues and areas turn into Polaroid snapshots in my reminiscence log, which is accessible from the highest left of the display, routinely arranging themselves right into a spiderweb of knowledge.
The extra I discover, the nearer my dread leans in. Although I solely discover the sport’s D-tier animated film artwork fashion perturbing within the sense that every little thing seems prefer it’s sculpted from gritty Play-Doh, Homebody does properly to construct discomfort in small environmental particulars and moments.
Visitor ebook sign-offs and hoarded letters from the ‘70s spell out Nest’s hedonistic preoccupation with everlasting life, which in the end leads me to find surreal areas of the home. For now, I discover a peep-hole sliced right into a mounted portray, however there’s no obvious means into the room it factors to. One half glitch (it appears) and one half design, Emily’s pals additionally seem to have spontaneously reset positions when the ability went out, saying nothing once I promise to discover a answer besides, vacantly, “Okay.”
After the sport’s digicam additionally glitches a bit and causes me to flit out and in of the mouth of a hallway, I begin to hear the killer snarling earlier than I see it—a hunched plague physician with a knife. Emily wheezes earlier than she, like all of her pals, is stabbed and left bloody on the bottom.
Acceptance is vital
However that was alleged to occur. The sport is ready up like a somber Groundhog Day (1993), a survival horror much less occupied with really surviving than it’s in enduring, taking what you realized one night time and utilizing it to work out extra puzzles because it repeats.
Just about none of Emily’s pals know what’s occurring, and the entire puzzles reset after dying, so every night time, I attempt to work with death-sentence effectivity and forge forward within the sport. I’m, by nature, horrible at visible and math puzzles, each of which dominate Homebody, together with one puzzle the place it’s important to flip rotating wheels till they kind a particular sample, and one other the place you fill water pumps to a particular PSI. I discovered most of the puzzles troublesome, however none unpleasantly so—apart from, perhaps, one which requires you to know the way to play the 1989 logic sport Minesweeper, at which I’m actually, actually horrible.
I do what I can, then I let the hen man skewer me. After watching a touch display or, extra occasionally, a dreamlike cutscene that higher establishes Emily’s historical past with OCD, I’m once more standing up straight in the home lobby at 7 p.m.
Picture: Recreation Grumps
Although I reveal what really feel like vital plot factors, I discover all of them to be extremely impressionistic and up for interpretation. I by no means assume Homebody is attempting to emphasize one conclusion particularly, although it appears apparent that Emily’s repeated deaths whereas repeating puzzles in repeated hallways is an prolonged, carriage house-size metaphor for the obsessive ideas congesting her life.
(I bear in mind turning the oven off, however what if it malfunctioned? What if the carpet is already on fireplace? What if the individuals I really like are useless? What if it’s my fault? I ought to double-check.)
Popular culture representations of OCD are usually factually inaccurate and belittling, however whereas Homebody doesn’t go into specifics, the severity at which Emily experiences OCD feels so branded into the gameplay that it doesn’t must—it’s nonetheless a welcome departure from kind. There’s a second, for instance, once I’m capable of choose “It killed us. It got here from nowhere” as a dialogue possibility whereas speaking to one among Emily’s blissfully unaware pals. After I select it, although, Emily as an alternative attributes her stress handy wave-y “household stuff.”
I are likely to keep away from critically speaking to individuals about my OCD, too, particularly in occasions the place it’s been as bodily and emotionally isolating as it’s for Emily. Due to how private it’s, I don’t thirst for OCD illustration in video games, or in any media in any respect, actually, however enjoying Homebody has been surprisingly cathartic. It’s an post-mortem of the run-of-the-mill terror I’ve realized to dwell with and let go.