A Bittersweet Tale
Three Fourths Home is a succinct, but beautiful, interactive short story by Bracket Games. While only clocking in at around thirty minutes, I was enraptured by the story. Three Fourths Home is a extended conversation between a girl and the various members of a family on a long drive home. While beginning innocently enough, the game slowly reveals the fractured relationship between its members and the damage each member, primarily you, has done to one another. Three Fourths Home is an intense and deeply personal tale that succeeds in immersing you in its story and characters, as well as delivering a heartwrenching conclusion.
It’s important to recognize that Three Fourths Home is not a game in the traditional sense. In fact, it might be the antithesis of the typical understanding of a game. The game is best approached as a short story. You are a passive spectator and gameplay consists merely of holding down a button and selecting dialogue. Since the dialogue isn’t spoken, the actual playing aspect boils down to simply reading text on your screen.
As in all narrative driven games, Three Fourths Home entirely depends on the strength of its writing and the game delivers exceptionally well. You are Kelly Meyers, a young twenty-four year old girl. On your way back home after a drive to the old family barn, you answer a phone call from your mother. The story begins as a conversation between Kelly and her mother, then develops into conversations with her father and younger brother.
Unlike many other interactive stories, such as Heavy Rain or Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Three Fourths Home’s story is not dependent on you. There are no choices that have far-reaching consequences, such as a dramatic shift in the conclusion or death of a major character. Even though the game has a clear-cut and unchanging story, you are still heavily involved. Through the dialogue choices, you uncover more of the story and family relationships. You also choose how Kelly views her family and how they view her. Do you want to be an embittered young woman who blames her family for her problems? Do you want to be depressed and upset by the outside forces that have pushed you back to your rural family that you tried to escape? Do you want to try and rebuild your relationships with them even though it may be too late? The game lets you decide the personality of Kelly and that affects her relationship with her family.
The relationship between Kelly and her family is the crux of the story. I don’t want to give too much away because unraveling the story is essential to your experience. Kelly recently returned back home to rural Nebraska after dropping out of college. She moved back in to her old family home and is applying for her father’s old job. Her father lost his job after a workplace accident cost him his leg. He’s currently waiting for his disability claim to go through and has increased drinking to ease the pain. His job loss has put financial strain on the family and increased tension between them. The younger brother, Ben, has dropped out of high school and is living at home. Ben is “different.” It’s never diagnosed in the game, but it seems like some level of autism.
Different dialogue choices reveal more about these characters. The game lets you decide which important events or family members you want to learn more about. My first playthrough focused on Kelly and her reasons for coming home. By continually selecting dialogue choices relating to Kelly and her past experiences in this town, I learned all the reasons why she was so adrift. But, this focus on Kelly made me miss significant information about the brother and father. In my second playthrough, I shifted my focus away from Kelly and onto the father. Instead of learning about Kelly’s past, you learn about the father’s struggle with alcohol addiction because he’s in so much pain and cannot afford painkillers. This leads to a heartrending bit of dialogue involving the father and Ben.
The landscape in the background of your drive echoes Kelly’s feelings of isolation and loneliness. The landscape is mostly empty with occasional buildings scattered about. The background mirrors Kelly’s emotional state. As Kelly grows more depressed, the background becomes darker and the storm increases in intensity. The soundtrack mostly plays quietly in the background, adding an ominous atmosphere to your drive.
Three Fourths Home is a fantastic story driven experience. It’s well written and the characters are easy to emphasize with. Despite it’s short length, the game is worth playing. It’s akin to reading a short book. While telling a simple story about a family, the story is also deeply philosophical. The final conversation with the mother in the epilogue resonated deeply with me. In short, there’s no better game if you’re looking for a fantastic and emotional story-driven experience.