It was nearly 15 years ago, but I remember my last day of university as if it was yesterday.
I was the first of my four friends to leave our campus house share. Leaving first, not having to drip-feed goodbyes throughout the week seemed like the easiest thing to do. It probably wasn’t: in hindsight, I should have eked out every last moment of student life that I possibly could. But at the time, I was tired of it, ready to start life in the “real” world. Whatever that might have looked like. When you graduate, you often have no idea – and that’s what No Longer Home revolves around.
For those who’ve experienced it, student life and everything that goes with it – sharing a house, being away from home for the first time – is a period unlike any other. You’re no longer a child but you’re also not an adult; it’s a waypoint where you’re sort-of pretending to be grown-up, living your own, independent life, but you’re still inexplicably tethered to your childhood, to your parents. You’ll probably still go home for the holidays. You’ll probably have to return to your old bedroom in your parents’ house when you’ve graduated. It’s a smog that floats over you for your entire time at university, getting closer and thicker as the end of your course looms.
Of course, some people have it sorted; the lucky ones might have a graduate career already lined up. Most, though, have no idea what post-university life looks like. And leaving your course after three or four years often feels like a massive step back: returning to your hometown like nothing happened, your future looking like a black hole of mystery. For Bo and Ao, the protagonists of No Longer Home, this is exactly what they’re wrestling with. Bo is going back home to their parents, but having always lived in London, it’s not such a big jump. Ao, however, is returning to Japan. Neither know what their lives are going to look like – only that it’s going to be different, sad, hard, being apart from each other. So far apart.
Nobody really prepares you for what post-university life looks like. As a fresh-faced eighteen year old, you’re sold on the promise of graduate life: you’ll have a degree! The world is your oyster! Any job can be yours! Of course, it’s rarely the case. What usually comes after is dread and regret: you should have done a different course. You should probably never have gone to university at all. You should have taken the career path your parents suggested all those years ago. A decade and a half later, I can say with hindsight: don’t worry. It all works out – even if you don’t end up doing what you thought you would. But at that moment, when you’re preparing to leave your student accommodation, like No Longer Home‘s Bo and Ao, it’s perhaps the most daunting moment of your life so far.
No Longer Home is only short. You can complete it in not much more than an hour, although there’s scope to poke around Bo and Ao’s home, getting additional insight on their lives together if you want. There’s enough here to be thought-provoking, to make you look back on your own experiences, but there’s also a lot of underbaked ideas, too. Ao’s battle with depression is only hinted at, as they converse with a monster hidden away in a small room of the house. Conversations with other friends, too, hint at other ideas: there’s enough to build a snapshot of their lives together, but never enough to truly care about any of the characters here. It’s a shame: they’re relatable, and it would be nice to know more about them.
It’s not the only flaw, either. Moving around the small, cramped house in No Longer Home is painfully slow and clunky. You’ll need to use your left and right triggers to rotate the room around you, seeing all possible interactive elements. But selecting the correct interactive element feels like pot luck: trying to look at a pile of boxes will likely have you walking through the closest door, or vice versa. Thankfully, No Longer Home is brisk enough that its frustrations don’t outstay their welcome. And its narrative, as personal and stirring as it is, steals the limelight.
You might not spend enough time with Ao and Bo in No Longer Home to truly care about their feelings. But if you’re a graduate yourself, you’ll undoubtedly relate to the themes brought up in the game and reminisce over your own tumultuous time as you finished your university course. It’s only brief, but No Longer Home manages to capture real feelings and emotions in a tangible, powerful way.