I make no secret of my love for Gone Home, the previous game produced by The Fullbright Company. I think it is one of the best experiences ever crafted (my review) so when they announced Tacoma I was all over it.
Tacoma is is absolutely a “Fullbright” game. The cynical call their games “walking simulators” but I don’t understand that mindset. This term is supposed to imply that the game is “lesser” because it doesn’t involve twitchy combat and thus doesn’t require what munchkin players call “skill”. This is an immature line of thought; a game is good if it is fun and engaging, and Fullbright manages to directly engage me every time.
Combat doesn’t make a game good. The absolute best parts of Witcher 3 do not involve combat. I love that game but honestly W3’s combat is weak sauce. It’s fun, but there’s not much to it. No – the best moments are the emotional crescendos that the game is capable of producing inside of you, and those crescendos come only after you invest time in understanding the characters.
The best games are great because they have great story.
Tacoma takes place on board an empty space station. You are a contractor sent to recover the station’s artificial intelligence named ODIN. Along the way you discover what happened to the crew. The way this happens is so well done I am in awe.
Nearly everything is handled through augmented reality (AR) systems. You will see digital overlays all over the place. Pick up a book written in Russian, and a translation is automatically overlaid on it that you can read. Email is read through AR. You can find an AR yoga instructor.
How you discover what is happened is by viewing recovered AR recordings of the crew that the station recorded. They download into your AR device and then you can view them in a kind of holographic “playback”. You watch the crew interact and sometimes even access their own AR systems. It is through this mechanism that you unspool the puzzle.
It’s not overly complex but it takes some ingenuity sometimes. You’ll have to follow people around station as they split up inside of a single recording and sometimes figure out how to unlock doors so you can follow them.
The game affected me. I felt several moments of happiness, sadness, and fear for a bunch of people that I only learned about through old recordings and snooping through their email folders. At one point I feared I was witnessing the death of a crew member and I felt my chest tighten.
It doesn’t take a long time to complete – maybe three and a half hours to suck the marrow out of it. It’s cheap, too – twenty bones right now – so well worth your time.