Playing out like a stage play amid a floating, cosmic backdrop, No Longer Home elegantly wrestles with one’s place in the world, or indeed the universe, asking to what extent any of it might matter at all. From Cel Davison and Hana Lee, No Longer Home is a semi-autobiographical point and click story title that charts the anxiety of stepping out of university and into the uncertain wildland beyond where many of us are doomed to be lost. Their character surrogates, Ao and Bo, are in the very last days of university life with the past 4 years of their life seeming a fleeting breeze gone by, and leaving them now directionless and without opportunity. You take partial control over their story, choosing their conversation pieces, but ultimately this story is one that is doomed to slide away from you as it does the characters.
With wonderful art direction and deft writing No Longer Home manages to pack itself full with questions and ideas in a little over 2 hours. On the face of it this point and click game in the vein of Kentucky Route Zero might seem straightforward, but there is plenty to be gleaned from this uncomfortable, often otherworldly, journey.
Finding Your Place in the Universe
No Longer Home begins with a brief prelude called Friar Road—named so for the housing address of our character’s accommodation—which introduces us to Ao and Bo, getting us used to their stories and the themes that are about to play out. Ao and Bo star gaze to the vast expanse of night above, pondering where indeed their lives can go from here, how they are feeling about themselves, each other, and the uncertain anxieties ailing them. You can skip this prologue if you wish, but to do so would be to miss out on such a core element that makes the rest of No Longer Home tick.
In staring out into space No Longer Home reminds us and its characters of their miniscule presence in the universe, where finding your own position and way in this unending expanse is a seemingly impossible task. Not only is this pertinent to the anxious transitional period after university, it pertains too to Bo’s own sense gender identity as they are shown to be struggling with the early understandings of their non-binary status. The central thesis to No Longer Home, among many things that it is elucidating, is that it is difficult to find your place in this universe, and this use of space that carries on throughout works so perfectly well in personifying that feeling.
After Friar Road No Longer Home properly begins, skipping right on ahead to the very last days of Ao and Bo’s time living in their student flat. The game here moves to a nice 3D isometric design as the flat floats through space, letting the story of its inhabitants play out inside like a stage play. This idea of the stage play is enforced by the way in which the set shifts and changes on pulley systems as scenes change from one to the next. As you take control of Bo and Ao you can direct them around to various rooms and items around their home, seeing what feelings it stirs up in them or deciding for them how best to feel. These decisions are seemingly inconsequential but I would wager that certain choices make for at least different flavour text later on in conversations, maybe even changing them completely. To that end you can also somewhat dictate their conversations with each other and their friends. With the many choices available in the game there is certainly a strong degree of replayability here to see if anything does shift through different play throughs.
The real importance, I find, to the supposed vagueness that exploring through each of these trivial items around the house is to again place them alongside this wider expansive space setting. What is the worth of such trivialities of unwashed dishes to the vastness of the cosmos all around, the game asks?
A Deft Story of Alienation and Being Lost
Without daring to spoil anything—you should really take a leap on this wonderful story yourself—No Longer Home is not as straightforward as it otherwise sounds through premise. There exists an anxious discomfort throughout that will have you on edge and expecting the worst at any moment. The otherworldliness of this realm that Ao and Bo exist in is undeniable (not in the least because you are quite literally floating through space) as the world shifts in peculiar ways around them. Clearly this is an ode again to the wonderful direction of the game that gets across its tone and theme oh so perfectly. Ao and Bo’s own sense of alienation permeates the world around them, and their inner anxious demons continue to haunt them, and you, throughout. The audio of the game (which is described early on as being half of the experience) is also fundamental to this discomfort. The soundtrack is a mix of elegant pieces and discordant, otherworldly sounds that will have you feeling every bit the anxiety that Ao and Bo are suffering.
The conclusion to the game (again no spoilers) ends with the world appearing as a broken wasteland that Ao and Bo must navigate through, which in a sense is not too dissimilar to how the world currently is for a university grad. No Longer Home does not end with any answers or comforting resolutions for where Ao and Bo do go in life—because that chapter perhaps has not been written for Hana and Cel themselves yet—but perhaps the collective familiarity of that uncertainty is all the comfort we need.
Final Score: 8.5/10