Coming Home is an unremittingly awful game, one which never should have been released publicly. It’s hard to think of it even as an exercise for the author to learn Inform, so buggy and illogical are its basic design and implementation. Perhaps it could be considered a first step toward learning the language; in my opinion, such bumbling, poor initial efforts have no place in a public forum, let alone a competition. It’s not much fun wandering through somebody’s ill-conceived, cobbled-together, inside-joke universe. In fact, playing Coming Home is a kind of Zen torture, an experiment in just how unpleasant interactive fiction can possibly be. Perhaps it’s what IF is like in Hell.
Frankly, I don’t feel like putting much effort into this review, since the author obviously put so little effort into creating a quality game for the competition. I know it wasn’t a personal affront, but I felt insulted that he thought this jerry-built piecework was worthy of anyone’s time. It certainly was a wasted 15 minutes for me before I turned to the hints, and another wasted 15 minutes before I decided to just let the recording show me the rest of the game.
I want to encourage anyone who is interested in IF to contribute to the medium by writing a good game. But please, until it’s good (Lord, at least until it works)… keep it to yourself.
Prose: Coming Home doesn’t waste much time on prose. Which is unfortunate, since it’s supposed to be a text game and all. What’s there is really bad — not fun bad or silly bad like Detective, just bad. I think even the MST3K crew would get bored with this one.
Plot: Like the rest of the game, the plot is unclear, and what can be discerned doesn’t seem to make much sense. Apparently you’re a very small person (a child?) who has been away from home for a long time, can’t survive without eating and going to the bathroom every few minutes, and lives in a haunted house where doors close and lock of their own accord, people behave like furniture in some rooms and mysterious forces in others, and the bathrooms are smeared with urine and feces until you tell Mom to clean them up to a nice sparkle.
Puzzles: Puzzles? How to interact with the parser. How to move from place to place as directions randomly disappear. Why people appear and vanish, apparently magically.
Technical (writing): The writing didn’t have terrible mechanics (nothing like Punkirita from the 1996 competition, for example), but it sure wasn’t good either.
Technical (coding): To even try to summarize all the problems with the coding would take more time than I’m willing to give to this game. If you’ve read this far, you probably have a basic idea.
OVERALL: A 1.2