If ever there was a video game with which to enjoy a nice, warming cup of tea, it’s Three Fourths Home. You never need to hold your breath to pull of that headshot, hone your concentration to make that turn or even utilise decent dexterity to complete a quick time event. You just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride; tea is optional, but highly recommended.
In the flat expanse of Nebraska, players assume the role of 24 year-old Kelly while she is driving home during a storm. The narrative follows an extended conversation Kelly has with her parents and younger brother, who she has been forced to move back in with, as thunder rumbles and tornado sirens wail. Three Fourths Home is an almost entirely narrative driven experience, more short story that it is video game but it’s the strength of this short story that makes the game so special.
Writer Zach Sanford’s words are really remarkable. The tale is told entirely through dialogue and it is amazing just how much emotion and character Sanford is able to load the conversations with. He explores family, failure, disability and a whole host of heavy themes entirely via dialogue. Pasts are hinted at, personal tragedies mentioned in passing, painful memories implied and it’s up to the player to piece together the puzzle of this family’s troubled life and fill in the blanks in their own mind, with their own experiences. The game absolutely brought back my own painful memories and forced me to think about my own frustrations, it’s really powerful. And this all influenced the responses I chose. I was short with my Mother but tread more carefully with my Father, though I didn’t have to.
Players have nominal options through which they can interact with what’s on the stark, greyscale screen. You can hit the accelerator, pop a cassette in and out of the tape deck, honk the horn and, most importantly, navigate the conversation, choosing responses and dialogue options to drive the narrative. Its worth noting how awkward these few controls are (I played on PS4 with a DualShock 4). At all times, I had to hold down the trigger to drive both car and conversation. If I let it go, everything would decelerate, winding down to a halt as if time was standing still. As I navigated the dialogue options, my trigger finger would grow tired and sore but I had to push on to get home.
Aesthetically, Three Fourths Home is an advert for how much game developers have at their disposal when telling a story and creating atmosphere. The flashing lightning, the pounding rain and the endlessly claustrophobic cornstalks all create a tense, high pressure aether. I couldn’t bear to let the music play in my tape deck, it was too stressful.
Included in this extended edition of the game is an epilogue which acts as a prequel to the main story. Though it plays with form in ways the chief story does not, and offers greater replayability in its multiple outcomes, the narrative does not quite carry the same weight.
Though Three Fourths Home falls well within the ‘it’s not a game’ sphere for many, I really don’t care. It’s a fantastic, well-written and emotional experience perfect for curling up in bed with -like a good book!