What Have We Done?
The planet’s a mess and everyone who could afford it has fled to Mars. Leaving fauna and flora behind to struggle among mountains of refuse and toxic rivers.
Humans have left a harsher Earth than the one they entered. A product entirely of their own making. But this game isn’t as sad as I made it sound. In No Place Like Home, you embark on a quest to get your new farm thriving again, breathing life back into the world in the process.
Can We Fix It?!
Ellen, our protagonist has come to visit her grandfather one last time before she joins the rest of humanity on Mars. However, he’s nowhere to be found and his Farm is brimming with garbage. She can’t just leave things like this, so using her trusty drill and Vac-Pal she begins cleaning the place up a bit.
What begins as a search for her grandad ends up as a quest to clean up the lands around the farm and village. It’s a monumental task, seeing as you can’t take a step without trash blocking your way. Not to mention the murderous robots leaping at you from behind heaps of rubbish. Yet Ellen’s commitment to finding old gramps is something to behold. Granted, there wouldn’t be a game without that willingness to go further into the world, cleansing it along the way.
It’s a title with great subject matter. Taking a mistreated planet and doing something to help it recover. You may not be enough to heal the entire Earth, but you can make your slice of it a bit better. The gameplay revolves around cleaning up and recycling pollution, as well as establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with the natural world. It’s a fantastic way of reinforcing positive themes, with good deeds and cutesy animals.
Satisfying, But Stale
As you might imagine, this job of making her neck of the woods habitable again takes up the bulk of the gameplay. Vacuum up mountains of junk, and break down the old and hardened garbage with your drill to suck that up too. Along the way slap around a couple of hostile robots. It’s a very straightforward recipe that was surprisingly satisfying. Maybe it was watching all that waste get sucked up into my seemingly infinite vacuum pack. Or perhaps it was the knowledge that my actions were making a tangible difference in the digital world around me.
While it was a satisfying loop, it was also admittedly repetitive. If you’re looking for more action, this may get old a lot faster than for someone seeking a game to relax with. No Place Like Home does take steps at diversifying this section’s gameplay, such as rescuing/befriending animals or fighting robots. The combat was a little lame for me though. It just amounted to running from where their attacks would land, then spamming the attack button till it was over.
This game works best as a casual experience. For when you want a low-stakes, low-pressure time, farming, crafting, and hanging out with animals. And it does this fairly well, these aspects of gameplay also help alleviate the monotony of cleaning. Your farm is not only your base to rest at and decorate as you please. It’s also a good way to quite literally farm the resources you need.
Crops & Crafting
The harvest from your crops, and resources from other craftable structures like beehives, and chicken coops combined with currency is how you upgrade buildings and unlock crafting recipes. In order to harvest though, you need to sow the appropriate seeds. In order to diversify the plants you grow, you need to explore; which is only possible by cleaning up the pollution in the world. In doing so you discover not only more seeds, but also more books on food recipes and decorations, of which there are many.
It makes for a solid cycle of gameplay that has every part synergizing with one another; rewarding the player constantly and keeping them coming back for more. And you probably will, the gameplay loop definitely has the “just one more thing” effect. There’s always something to do. Whether it’s planting and nurturing a new kind of seed you found, or finally building something you’ve been working towards for a while. It’s imperfect, but pretty addictive gameplay overall.
No Place Like Home is nothing awfully special in its art style and visuals. If I’m being honest at times it even felt a bit ugly. However, I will make the counterpoint that some of it felt a bit intentional. The world covered in garbage is in sharp contrast to your farm and other clean areas. By the time you’ve added your personal touch to these spots, they’ll be unrecognisable. Filled with decorations, structures, plants, and an array of critters that add more life and colour to your surroundings. But even then, I could hardly call it a treat for the eyes.
It’s a flawed game that doesn’t always stick the landing. Yet still, there’s something endearing about the experience. Ellen’s core journey may be to find her grandpa. But as things progress the cleaning and healing of the world around her really becomes the star. It’s simple, but quite effective.