House is the tenth chapter of The Beginner's Guide.
This level begins in a snowy, mountainous environment with a modern house in the middle of it. At the highest part, there is a closed door. Once inside the house, the player meets a "housecleaner", to whom they talk and perform several housecleaning tasks. A joyful chorus accompanies this part. The housecleaner and the player exchange several questions. When the housecleaner asks the player if they are "enjoying this" and the player is about to answer, the chat disappears, the house's glass windows also disappear, the music stops and the door at the top opens. The last screen, the place past the door, is a small environment with nothing besides grass and a lamppost.
Davey tells the player that the level ends and they are able to leave the house because "you can't stay in the dark space for too long". This is contradicted late in the Tower level when Davey says that, originally, this level would loop forever, which is one of the strongest indications that he is an unreliable narrator, especially during a first playthrough of The Beginner's Guide. However, this is once again contradicted because if you play through the entire game with narration disabled (which is supposed to let you experience the levels as Coda intended them to be originally), this level will indeed stop looping at the same point and open the house, allowing you to proceed uphill.
So what would it look like if Coda wanted to make a game about talking to someone other than himself?
To me this environment is meant to represent Coda's puzzle, with two doors on either side and a dark transitional space between.
(When the player heads to the door on the opposite side) Just so you're aware, nothing will happen up here until you've been inside the house.
(See Dialogue Section)
You'll notice the quality of the art is a step up from previous games, including this new and improved chat system which he started using from this point on. From here on out he begins putting much more effort into the visual polish of his work, and this particular game took 2 months to create as a result.
After the intense set of prison games, this housecleaning level almost feels like cleansing. It's the moment after a particularly difficult or traumatic experience where you just need to let it sit and digest inside of you, and eventually cohere into something meaningful.
I know that Coda really liked this game. Of all of his work actually this was the only one that he called me up to ask me to come over and look at it. This was during a period of a few months where he was grossly happy, all the time, just walked around with a constant smile on his face.
I'm glad he made this. I'm glad he found some peace.
But, of course, it can't last. The music stops, your companion is gone, it's time to leave! The door at the top of the hill is now open as well. Again, you can't stay in the dark space for too long. You just can't, you have to keep moving, it's how you stay alive.
Which is the whole point of the puzzle doors, right? That sooner or later you have to pick up and move. I really thought that was the point of it.
Dialogue (From In-Game Files)
Well my goodness! I'm glad as all heck that you showed up! Thought I might be having to clean this entire house all by myself. And right miserable that would have been. Everyone knows lonesome hands make lousy homes!
- Don't worry about me, a place this nice I'll be glad to stay here all night. (Goto cleaner01)
- And lousy homes make... home-loners! (Goto cleaner02)
- Are we cleaning this whole place? (Goto cleaner03)
cleaner01: Well now you just might be getting a little ahead of yourself there, no? Why don't we start cleaning and THEN you decide whether you could do it all night. I'll finish up here, in the mean time could you please clear the table?
cleaner02: HA! Something tells me you're gonna be fun to do this job with. Well this place isn't going to clean itself, far as I know. I'll finish up here, in the mean time could you please clear the table?
cleaner03: That's the story, little one. Oh don't you worry now, we'll be through this mess in no time! I promise you'll wish there was more. Why don't I finish up here, in the mean time could you please clear the table?
(After clearing the table) Much nicer, that's the table I want to see. Now would you please run into the bedroom and make the bed?
(After making the bed) While you're in there, why don't you straighten out the rug a bit? All the little details matter!
(After straightening the rug)
- Do you enjoy being a housecleaner? (Goto cleaner01)
- How'd you end up doing this job? (Goto cleaner02)
- It's been a long time since I've seen a house this messy... (Goto cleaner03)
cleaner01: Well...I don't enjoy it so much as I need it. While I'm working I feel a kind of calm that rests in the pit of my ribcage. My soul just can't be soothed any other way, it seems. Which I guess is about all that matters! Oh, that and a tidy couch. Would you straighten the pillows on the sofa out here?
cleaner02: A friend dragged me along at a time when I was particularly desperate for cash. Turns out, I've never felt so good doing something for money in my life! Never did like cleaning my own home. I might've got some demons I ain't ready to face yet. Oh, speaking of demons, someone's put this couch all in a mess. Would you come out and straighten these pillows here?
cleaner03: This line of work, you let go of those judgments pretty fast. May not be your apartment, but something in your life needs straightening up. You think you've got nothing that needs cleaning, be careful, that means it's everything. Any rate, my place is just to see a bit of peace brought here. Speaking of which, the pillows on this couch are a wreck, would you come out and straighten them up?
(After straightening pillows) Oh, dear, looks like someone spilled a drink over by the couch. Maybe mop that up as long as you're over there?
I feel compelled to share an incredibly cheesy personal insight. You okay with that?
- Make it especially cheesy.
- Yeah I'll try to get by.
- Do you absolutely have to?
(Regardless of answer) ... ... No... No, it was stupid, sorry. Never mind. Hey, these dishes need to be washed, why don't you come do that.
(After washing dishes) Last I checked the tub needed a cleaning. How about you scrub it down as best you can. No need to be perfect, we're all just human.
(After cleaning tub) Are there still books scattered on the floor of the bedroom? If so, would you put them back on the shelf?
(After returning books to shelf) Perfect. Now, then, how about you come and clear these dishes off the table?
(After clearing the table)
- Housecleaning is so difficult! How do you do it? (Goto cleaner01)
- Are all houses this easy to clean? (Goto cleaner02)
- Do these chores ever end? (Goto cleaner03)
cleaner01: Darling, let me tell you something. Your house is only as difficult to clean as YOU are. If you're finding the work hard, maybe you have a bit of housekeeping to do before you come to work. Ha! And here I go with another lecture. Of course I would. Don't you worry about all that nonsense, for now just smooth out the rug in the bedroom.
cleaner02: Darling, let me tell you something. In your lifetime, you are going to clean a lot of houses. And among all those, a few of them will stick out as truly wonderful, beautiful experiences. And none of them will be the ones that were easy. Just something to think about while you smooth out the rug in the bedroom.
cleaner03: Darling, let me tell you something. Whatever work you do, you have absolutely got to own it. Otherwise, it owns you. So why don't we be with the task at hand and leave the future chores to future you. Present you wants to smooth out the rug in the bedroom, believe it or not. Trust me on this one.
(After straightening rug) Looks like the tub has gotten rather dirty. Would you mind tidying it up a bit?
(After cleaning tub) ... Earlier, when I said I had a really cheesy thought. I was going to say that it occurs to me that one's house is a lot like one's soul. You take care of it, and it takes care of you. Heh. Don't know why I felt so weird about saying that.
- I get it, that's a weird thing to say to someone you just met.
- Yeah, you're right, that's pretty cheesy.
- But there's a bit of truth in it, no?
(Regardless of answer) ... Anyway. Housekeeping. Let's keep doing this. Books. Would you please clean up the books. Thanks.
(After returning books to shelf) Oh goodness, those pillows over on the couch are a real mess. Would you go over and straighten them up a bit? Can't have these folks coming home to a messy couch.
(After straightening pillows) ... Question: Do you enjoy this? (Music cuts and housecleaner disappears)