'Gone Home'

From: Fullbright Co.

Rated: Not available

Who it's for: Those interested in a stunningly realistic, though low-key, adventure

Who it's for: Anyone interested in an intriguing, completely different simulation game

Console: PC

Grade: B+

As a reviewer it's easy jumping from one big-budget game to the next, critiquing the nuances in shading and the number of polygons used in character models. In fact, it's even easy to lose sight of the most important thing about interactive entertainment: gameplay.

Once in a while I like to step back and see what's going on in the indie gaming community, which has thrived in recent years on the PC, mobile devices and major console online sites.

My latest sojourn started with "Gone Home," an adventure game from the Fullbright Co.

Using the word adventure might actually be an overstatement, but "Gone Home" resists classification.

The game starts as your character — a college student returning from a year abroad — returns home. Except it's a home she's never seen before.

Her family inherited a mansion and moved while she was away, so when she arrives to find the empty house — at once familiar and strange — she must figure out what's going on and where her family has gone.

Presented in the first person, the game will feel familiar to anyone who has played a spooky house game such as "Alone in the Dark" or "Resident Evil." The thunderstorm raging outside and the flickering lights inside add to this pervasive feel.

However, this is not a horror game. There are no lurking monsters waiting to jump out at you, no serial killers hiding around the corner. It doesn't matter, though: The house feels oppressive, and it's difficult to avoid the feeling that something bad is going to happen at any second.

This feeling lies at the heart of "Gone Home." But where many games trade off surreal or hyper-real experiences, this game simply wants to be real.

Pick up a roll of toilet tissue and read the package. Open a drawer and check out the receipts littered within. Everything here screams "average suburban house."

Therefore, you must explore carefully, uncovering little clues as to what's going on and allowing the story to unfold organically. You're compelled to scour every nook and cranny to learn as much about your family as possible. It's truly an astounding accomplishment.

"Gone Home" brings games to a new place and shows how the artistry of pure storytelling can translate into a sublime interactive experience. Anyone interested in experiencing something completely different should give it a try.

'Papers Please'

From: Lucas Pope

Rated: Not available

Who it's for: Anyone interested in an intriguing, completely different simulation game

Console: PC

Grade: B+

"Papers Please" also goes places no other game has dared to go — to a desk job in EasternEurope.

Set during the Cold War, players step into the practical shoes of a border control agent, manning the checkpoint between the fictional Kolechia and Arstotzka.

People wait at the border to cross, entering your station one at a time and handing over their passports and entry tickets in hopes of getting into glorious Arstotzka's. It's your job to determine whom to let in and whom to turn away.

"Papers Please" is anything but a boring desk job.
"Papers Please" is anything but a boring desk job. (Courtesy photo)

What starts as a simple job of checking for Arstotzkan citizenship turns into a challenge of eagle-eye proportions as the number of documents increases. Soon you will need to examine passports from numerous countries and find discrepancies that could allow a terrorist or smuggler to enter your country.

And you must do all of this quickly. Your salary depends on processing as many requests as possible each day, and failing to do so will mean you don't have enough money for the rent, food, heat and medicine your family depends upon.

Nothing ends the game quicker than a dead wife.

And nothing sounds quite as tedious as sitting behind a desk processing paperwork all day long, but somehow "Papers Please" manages to keep it fun and interesting.

The graphics are mediocre, reminiscent of the 8-bit Nintendo, and the sounds are really nothing more than a simple series of beeps and clunks, but it doesn't matter. "Papers Please" somehow manages to grab you and refuse to let go.

PC gamers owe it to themselves to give this new, quirky game a try.