It’s hard to put No Longer Home into words without ending up delivering personal reflection. It’ll hit home in several ways with every individual person who plays it, and that’s something Hana Lee and Cel Davison of Humble Grove can be immensely proud of.
You follow the story of Bo and Ao, in their South London university flat for the final year of education. The Home Office’s immigration policy is forcing Ao to move back to Japan when they aren’t ready to do so, and Bo must move back into their family home due to skyrocketing housing prices and a lack of direction in life.
You explore their flat from an isometric angle, and can rotate each room to reveal more parts of it. There’s no map screen, but it’s really easy to get to know the place. It’s a London flat after all – not a huge amount of space to go around. The gameplay consists of wandering around the somewhat dilapidated living space and reminiscing over the lives the characters have lived over the last year. You’ll have friends over for one last BBQ, chat about the future, and complain about how much of a pain moving house is.
With each conversation, you have a few options, allowing you to choose who makes the next statement. It’s a system I really like, since you’re kind of playing as all the characters at once. Actual conversations are just like that. It isn’t so much a back-and-forth as a collaboration – everyone can add their own bits to the chatter to take it to more interesting places.
It’s a setting that’s easy to see as mundane, but with this comes a mirror, allowing the player to hold their own experiences in front of No Longer Home and feel less alone.
I’m not saying “we are all Bo and Ao”. It’s more that No Longer Home manages to convey such a genuine depiction of the fears and worries young people have in this big scary world that it’s hard not to feel like it’s directed right at you. From the unknown of the ‘real’ world to feeling like you’re always the one who takes the bins out (even though your housemate probably actually does pull their weight), you can always find points in the story which speak to an honest, human experience.
I’m only a few short years out of university. Unlike No Longer Home‘s cast, I was lucky enough to find my closest friends during my school years, and through uni, managed to stay in touch. I have precious few close university friends, but the wistful melancholia so beautifully communicated in No Longer Home still feels so real to me. Because it’s all change. Leaving uni, I fell out of touch with friends I’m only just getting back in contact with. Having gone through the experience of leaving school, with all sides needing to make a constant effort to stay in touch, Bo and Ao’s fear of losing each other felt like a creeping inevitability. It’s not framed as an irreversible loss, though. If they really try, and resolve to take the time and effort to figure things out, people can stay in each other’s lives.
No Longer Home is a game about goodbyes. Goodbyes are slow. They’re tedious. They’re exhausting. Every time the two lead characters talk about their impending goodbye, it feels like an unavoidable doom, one they’re powerless to do anything about. Circumstances have ruined the chances of delaying that goodbye, and the more I got used to the space – the South London flat the game takes place in – the more it seemed to shrink.
London is so vast, but it can feel so small. I have my room, a couple of places I go, and an indeterminate amount of time between them – tube stations, bus rides, the beeping of Oyster cards, and avoiding eye contact with others.
“I’m always meaning to do so much more, but somehow the days just end up slipping away, one by one.”
The game touches so many aspects of life in such a short space of time. The feeling of being small in the world – seeing all these societal problems but unable to find solutions makes you feel inadequate and somewhat complicit. You can’t just go and do a revolution, or ‘organise’ – you have essays to write, or work to finish up before tomorrow, or tidying to do because you should really put those jumpers away and stop transferring them from the chair to the bed and back again depending on which one you’re currently using.
It often feels like life is just passing by. Ao mentions considering looking into an ADHD diagnosis, but shuts the idea down. “I’m just lazy; everyone knows it.” With so many hoops to jump through and complications that exist just to get a professional to examine you for a mental health condition, who has the time or energy to figure out things like how to spend the rest of your working life, or how to stop the Home Office from forcing foreigners out if they don’t meet some arbitrary criteria for their ‘worth’? The specificity with which Ao and Bo’s struggles are tackled is what makes No Longer Home such a genuine-feeling experience. You might not be non-binary, or required to exit the UK due to visa issues, or struggling to make rent in an ever-worsening housing market, and the emotions the characters show are specific to their own personal situations, but I found the characters all the more relatable because of these extremely intimite, lived experiences.
The thing that impresses me most about No Longer Home is that through all this fear, all this anxiety, and all this imminent loss, there’s still some level of hope. Maybe this all is for nothing. Maybe everything feels flat right now, and you can’t see a functioning human being when you look in the mirror. Maybe the big orange cat who lives with you doesn’t like you that much. Maybe you don’t love yourself. Maybe all you have is vague preaching on how to solve the world’s problems. Maybe, god forbid, you still haven’t moved that pile of jumpers.
No Longer Home doesn’t just say “it’s okay, don’t worry about it”. Instead, the hopeful aspect is more subtle and realistic. You’ve made it this far. Life is a fucking mess, but you’re not a failure. You’re just you. Go talk to a loved one.
No Longer Home is a semi-autobiographical adventure with a great deal of emotional depth. Its message isn’t immediately clear, and that’s to its credit – you might get something completely different out of it than I do. Everyone’s had to go through big changes, and this game encapsulates the internal conflicts, interpersonal struggles, fear, and hope brilliantly. Playing No Longer Home felt like those deep, drunk conversations you have with friends. Those chats that would go on forever if one of you didn’t fall asleep mid-sentence.
- Personal storytelling that will resonate in a unique way with everyone
- Exploration of themes not usually seen in games
- Gorgeous soundtrack and amazing art style
- I won’t stop thinking about it for a long time
- Some struggles with movement and selecting the right object to interact with at points
- The dialogue options appear faster than the text, making it easy to accidentally select one without meaning to