Every so often, I break out of my gaming routine to try something new and different. These turn into my Try-It Tuesday sessions, and they are a mixed bag indeed!
After devouring What Remains of Edith Finch the other week, I needed another injection of interactive “walking simulator” storytelling… which led me to Tacoma. Created by the Gone Home team, Tacoma doesn’t stray far from the template from the aforementioned games. You’re a female arriving in a deserted location who investigates her surroundings and pieces together a narrative of what happened prior to her arrival.
In this case, it’s a space station instead of a family house, but the concept doesn’t stray too far from the path. Something Has Happened to the station Tacoma and its six occupants (who are no longer aboard), and it’s up to you to find out what while recovering as much of the recorded data as possible.
The twist here is that in certain areas you can recover all or part of audio and video recordings of the crew in the past — sometimes hours, sometimes weeks, sometimes even months ago — and then play them back as they move about. You can’t see their actual bodies and faces, but rather color-coded humanoid blobs, but you can peek into their HUD computer displays and follow them as they go about various tasks and discussions. The only real choice you actually have in the game, in fact, is who to follow when, which only determines what order you get all of the story beats.
Between the crew logs, their computer messages (emails, texts, letters), and some minor environmental observation, the narrative gradually comes together. The game starts promisingly pretty much at the point of the crisis, and then delivers logs that go back and forward from that point to give you ever-widening context. And even though the people are blobs, you get to know them a bit and find out a few details about their backstories and relationships.
While I ended up not liking Gone Home very much, Tacoma was better — but only a little bit more. I loved the setting and the mechanics, but it is way, way too short of a game. It’s like a short story instead of a novella, and I ended up feeling robbed that we didn’t get more sections with more conversations and details. The characters don’t get as much time to be fleshed out, the mystery, so to speak, gets rushed in the end, and the sparse environmental details didn’t live up to Gone Home or Edith Finch.
It’s what I would consider a $5 game, max, for what you get. Definitely worth a quick two-hour playthrough, but once you’re done, there’s no reason to ever revisit it.