It’s rare to come across a piece of fiction that seems so personal to its creators yet relatable at the same time. Yet this game manages it perfectly. Set in an intimate South London flat, this semi-autobiographical point-and-click game lets you explore the lives of non-binary students Bo and Ao through meaningful interactions with their friends, belongings and each other.
After graduating from Uni, Ao succumbs to the banality of the British immigration system when they’re forced to return to their native Japan. With only a month or so left until their departure, the couple skirt around the big conversations, paralysed by their inability to express how they really feel.
The Eye of the Beholder
Playing as Bo, you navigate their home with simple controls (sticks to move, B to run) while selecting the minimal pop-up icons with A to interact. The environmental storytelling is exquisite. Exploring the bedroom, Bo laments that they never put up shelves on Ao’s side of the bed. A seemingly innocuous statement lets you glean so much about their relationship and Bo’s sense of self through the mundanity of everyday life.
When you eventually get to play as Ao, something special happens. What was a source of regret for Bo is merely an aside as Ao jokes they could’ve put the shelves up themselves if they wanted to. Objects are weighted with different meanings depending on the viewer, which makes interacting with the world a constant surprise.
The rhythm of everyday life – washing clothes, making the bed, cooking – is punctuated by wondrous moments of magical realism that deepen your understanding of the characters. When you first explore the bedroom as Bo, a twisting ball of black and grey materialises above the bed. After interacting with the so-called ‘unknowable object’, you mention this to Ao, who says they hope it would go away if they ignore it. The things unsaid between the two literally manifest as a dark sphere of energy that consumes the room.
The game’s branching dialogue options have big Kentucky Route Zero vibes. You’re able to choose to speak as various characters to reveal their unique perspective and insight, allowing you to tell the story in any way you see fit. It takes things a step further than Kentucky, though. There’s a touching moment at the BBQ where the dialogue option for Ao and Bo is the same. You can choose to make them both admit they were scared of each other when they first met. As a player, you’re gifted the power of omnipotence. You have the complete knowledge of how they really feel about each other if only they would say so.
All the World’s a Stage
No Longer Home is gorgeous. Everything about the design has been carefully thought out. Animation is clean, with simple lines and blocks of pastel purple, teal, green, yellow and umber. The rug in the kitchen is striped with the same colour pallet – it might be a reach but it reminded me of the Rainbow flag, perhaps a nod to the important role that their queer identity holds.
Each room is a beautiful diorama set against the backdrop of a starry sky. As you rotate the rooms, they feel like a theatre set – walls lift away and shapes shift to reveal another scene. When you huddle up inside the makeshift fort to play a video game with your friends, the cosy surroundings start to peel away until you’re in a foreboding forest at night. The game’s ability to transport you to another place is effortless.
Booting up the game, you’re advised to play with headphones for the full experience. I couldn’t agree more. The music is dreamy. Ethereal chords reverberate and echo throughout the flat. In the studio, you can play a record and hear the unmistakable crackle of needle on vinyl. Standing in the kitchen, you’re surrounded by the patter of rain, a distant police car siren, flies buzzing around mouldy fruit. There’s beauty in the mundanity of it all.
No Longer Home is a quiet, contemplative game with profound reflections on identity and conformity. It captures the ennui of graduating from University and the intense relationships forged in those formative years. I was transported to the ramshackle 8-bed house I rented as a student, feeling again the pain of uncertainty and the unspoken tensions that sharing your space creates. For a game to have such an effect is remarkable.