Indie Review: A House in California by Cardboard Computer

A House in California, the latest game from developer Jake Elliott and his studio, Cardboard Computer, sends players on an introspective and nostalgic interactive adventure about four characters turning a house into a home.


As stated on Cardboard Computer's website, the game's four protagonists (Lois, Beulah, Connie, and Ann) --each with her own playable "chapter"-- are based on two of Elliott's grandmothers, and two of his great-grandmothers. "The game is inspired aesthetically by Mystery House, developed in 1980 by Roberta & Ken Williams," writes Elliott. "But whereas Mystery House is a mystery story about greed and murder, A House in California is more like an Imagist poem about family and memory."

If you haven't already guessed, Jake Elliott doesn't make typical games. His previous works include free-to-play titles such as "I Can Hold My Breath Forever," "Beulah and the Hundred Birds," and the recently released text-adventure about attention deficit disorder called "Hummingbird Mind."

A House in California is a surreal trip through childhood memories that have been filtered through the opaque lenses of time and nostalgia. The minimalist art style works extraordinarily well in creating scenes that serve as "puzzle rooms," with nothing else but descriptive text and player imagination to help flesh out the narrative. Though many of the puzzle solutions are quite abstract, none feel far-reaching or out of place, provided you have a fully-functioning imagination.

For the full review, head on over to Shacknews' sister-site, Indie Games Channel.