Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road…
When I was in college, I used to love taking photos of stairs, but always from the angle of being at the base of them with a clear view upwards. In hindsight, it clearly reflected my state of mind at the time — an aspiring clinical psychologist taking on as many practicums and poster presentations as possible in an effort to get into the best Ph.D programs available. I saw life as an upwards trajectory, and as long as I gave it my all, my path forward was abundantly clear. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out the way we envision it in our college years, and my psychology dreams ended when my undergraduate studies did; luckily, I’ve been able to carve out a career following my true passion in video games. These days, the beauty of stairs have lost their meaning to me, which I suppose is consistent with me no longer feeling my whole life lay ahead of me.
Since then, I’ve had discussions with friends and family at these critical periods of their lives, and they’ve had similar-yet-different visions for themselves. One friend, feeling trapped with no foreseeable mobility, often dreamed of broken down escalators; another had reoccurring nightmares of watching everyone freely run ahead of her while she ran exhaustedly on a treadmill, unable to join those sprinting away. I was reminded of these symbols in the game No Longer Home, a visual novel depicting the last few weeks of college for two students struggling with the idea of post-uni life. Their late-night talks of a disappearing path in a dense, dimly-lit forest felt familiar, and their outlook soberly matched their symbolically anxious vision.
No Longer Home is based off a true story of two college students in London who found an immediate connection with each other mid-way through their life at uni. Although one student grew up in the area their whole life and another came from Tokyo on student visa, the pair quickly realized they understood each other on a deep and intimate level after a late-night conversation under the stars. Now, just weeks away from graduation, Ao and Bo are forced to reconcile their rapidly upcoming departure from the home they’d built together, rinsing through all the thoughts and emotions that come with saying goodbye.
As No Longer Home is a visual novel that employs point and click mechanics, controls are extremely simple. Players will take control of both Ao and Bo throughout the game, clicking on things around their cozy student flat and hearing their thoughts on the matter. As they progress throughout the house, they’ll come across some really strange occurrences that can’t be explained by logic or reason — floating geometric tangles, constellations in the bathtub… you know, the usual. Shaking these bizarre instances off, Ao and Bo plan their farewell BBQ with friends, play some video games, and have a heart to heart into the wee hours of the morning.
When it comes to aesthetics, No Longer Home’s low poly art direction and chill, ambient music makes the experience feel meditative. Greatly assisting in that endeavor are the game’s pacing, which is definitely on the slow side, and transitions from scene to scene, which see the environments float into and out of view, constructing themselves in a smooth and peaceful manner. Coupled with the dim lighting casting a dark cloud over the soon-to-be-empty apartment, No Longer Home drives home bittersweet goodbyes in every sense of the phrase.
One interesting aspect about Ao and Bo’s relationship is that they are both non-binary, using the pronouns they/them throughout the entire experience. In fact, that was a pivotal point in their relationship, where they realized together some previously unsaid thoughts about themselves — bonding over their shared self-actualizations about their gender identities. This made saying goodbye all the more difficult, as parting ways with the one person who could understand the other in a very personal and unique manner is, I’d imagine, absolutely heart-breaking.
Of course, it’s not just each other they’re saying goodbye to — the overwhelming theme is certainly that they’ll miss each other, but also the now unobtainable hopes and dreams they had upon entering uni, their unfinished projects they could have sworn they had time for, and the future that could have been had they tried another path in life. As they pack their things and have one last hurrah with friends, they rinse through the emotions of feeling utterly unprepared for whatever may come next, wishing that the other could be by their side in the unpredictable future.
Although No Longer Home has rightfully drawn comparisons to Kentucky Route Zero, I feel like the pacing was perhaps a bit too slow and utterly mired in sadness for the sake of being sad. Given the topic matter, I find that excusable, but considering the overall mood of… you know, *gestures wildly* 2021, it perhaps hit a little too close to home? I know I felt really bummed out for the rest of the day after playing. Additionally, I think the video game portion within the game (meta) broke up the flow of the main story with a sort of allegorical retelling of what Ao and Bo were experiencing… I think? I’m personally unsure. There were a lot of references to the UK educational system that I may or may not have understood, and having maybe just a little more context for what that whole thing was supposed to mean would have been appreciated.
No Longer Home is a short, sad story about coming to terms with growing up and saying goodbye to college life, friends, and the family we create along the way. Although Ao and Bo must leave their uni flat and the happy memories they’ve created within those four walls behind, they’ll cherish every precious moment spent together. If you’re looking to experience the pain of parting while taking solace in the fact that home is truly where the heart is, No Longer Home will scratch that melancholy itch.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Fellow Traveller; Developer: Humble Grove; Players: 1; Released: July 30, 2021; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of No Longer Home provided by the publisher.