Before I got started on this game, it was one of those things that I was always brushing up against, but never made direct contact with. A great many posts about the history of horror games cite this as one of the best early ones (predecessor to Resident Evil, etc etc) of all time.
In addition, prior to getting started on the game, I was afraid (possibly due to the point above) that it would be kinda boring, or not hold up, or that the earlier-mentioned writers and youtubers and self-appointed ‘historians’ were just wrong.
As it turns out, those people are not wrong. This game is not just one of the great horror games. It’s one of the best games on the platform, full stop. Someday, maybe I’ll go through and somehow tag these reviews to say which games legitimately, fully hold up today, and are not dragged down by the low tech consoles. This is without question one of those titles.
The setting, style, music, colors & aesthetics are all completely successful in what they’re setting out to do. I don’t know whether the music came from the movie that the game is based on, but it works extremely well.
Sweet Home is, however, asking a lot of you the player, in terms of learning curve. Not that the game itself is hard; the game play is completely fair, unlike a lot of these early games. But it is asking a lot in terms of learning the interface, how to control characters, inventory management, etc.
Most of this is down to the fact that you are playing as 5 characters at once. You can move items around between them all, and group them up in different ways, because they each have a tool exclusive to them. Different groups of tools are needed for different puzzles. I was also ready to believe that this is a ridiculous gimmick which can’t possibly work, but it becomes more and more important as the game goes on, until it’s something that (A) you can do fluidly without thinking about the controls and (B) you are strategizing for, all the time, in every little room you walk into.
Some of the puzzles are definitely designed such that you can put the game in an unwinnable state. Character death is also permanent. But, you are allowed to save anywhere, and there’s even a menu item for resetting to your last save, right there in the interface. You don’t have to reset the console at all. I’m assuming this means they plan for you to save before going in to a questionable situation, try a lot of different things, and reset if you fail. I like the system and it makes it feel fair; you’re never afraid to touch the wrong thing or go exploring in the wrong area just because the game expected you to “know” something that you in reality had no way of knowing.
There are several English translation patches for this, and I don’t know which one is considered the “best.” I used the one which refers to the Amulet as “Tool,” though I have seen versions which call it the “Amulet.” All translations seem to have their own advantages and disadvanteges; it doesn’t look to me like there’s a canonical one.
You would think that an unofficial translation, and not having access to the manual, and the complicated interface would drag the whole experience down a peg or two, but it really just doesn’t. Every little shortcoming (all of these old games have some obvious ones) is more than compensated for by the pure fun of it. This is one of the rare titles that I can see myself coming back to and playing through again (maybe I’ll put together some big Halloween bonanza this October?)