Ta­coma

DE­VEL­OPER Full­bright / PUB­LISHER Full­bright / WEB­SITE https://ta­coma.game

Custom PC - - CONTENTS - RICK LANE

T he cargo re­lay sta­tion Ta­coma floats be­tween the earth and the moon, silent, dark and empty. Its crew of six peo­ple evac­u­ated the sta­tion three days ago, al­though the method and rea­son be­hind that evac­u­a­tion re­mains shrouded in mystery. You are Amy Fer­rier, a sub­con­trac­tor of the Ven­turis cor­po­ra­tion, which owns Ta­coma along­side sev­eral in­ner-sys­tem hol­i­day re­sorts to which Ta­coma fer­ries cargo. You’re tasked with re­triev­ing Ta­coma’s on-board AI, named Odin, from the sta­tion’s servers. Yet while the sta­tion might be de­void of life, ghosts wan­der its cor­ri­dors.

As with Full­bright’s Gone Home, Ta­coma be­gins with a sub­ver­sion. It’s a typ­i­cal sci-fi disaster sce­nario, but what tran­spires is a much gen­tler and more hu­man story than Ta­coma ini­tially sug­gests, al­beit one with more of a sting in its tail than Full­bright’s pre­vi­ous work.

Ta­coma is also much more adept at both telling its story and in­volv­ing the player than Gone Home. All the step­ping stones of video game sto­ry­telling are still present; au­dio logs, en­vi­ron­men­tal de­tail­ing, notes and doc­u­ments are scat­tered on desks and pinned on walls. But Ta­coma adds another layer that brings the char­ac­ters to life and lets the player walk among them.

In ad­di­tion to its be­spoke AI, the Ta­coma sta­tion is equipped with an aug­mented re­al­ity sys­tem that lets the sta­tion’s crew ac­cess var­i­ous sta­tion ser­vices, emails, maps, calls and so on, from an aug­mented re­al­ity dis­play. How­ever, this sys­tem also tracks and records the move­ments and con­ver­sa­tions of the crew. As Amy, you can play back these record­ings at var­i­ous points in the sta­tion, and rewind or fast-for­ward them.

The bulk of Ta­coma’s story is told through these record­ings, and this sys­tem works bril­liantly, as it lets you be­come much bet­ter ac­quainted with the char­ac­ters on the sta­tion. Al­though the record­ings only vi­su­alise the crew as mono­chrome holo­grams, you get a pal­pa­ble sense of each

90%OVER­ALL SCORE / VERDICT A gor­geous set­ting, well told story, and in­no­va­tive ap­proach to nar­ra­tive make Ta­coma a crack­ing ex­er­cise in vir­tual sto­ry­telling.

in­di­vid­ual – each voice, per­son­al­ity and even body shape is dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent, mak­ing them easy to iden­tify at a glance, but with­out car­i­ca­tur­ing them.

What’s more, these playable ex­tracts from the crew’s lives aren’t staged like a film or play. The char­ac­ters walk around the en­vi­ron­ments as they talk, split­ting off in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, seek­ing out soli­tude in the sta­tion’s many cub­by­holes and re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion be­tween each other. Con­se­quently, there are of­ten sev­eral dif­fer­ent events hap­pen­ing at once. Not only does this setup make the char­ac­ter in­ter­ac­tions feel more nat­u­ral, but it also brings your abil­ity to rewind and fast-for­ward the record­ings into the game, so you can ex­plore all the dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions each scene of­fers.

Lastly, the sys­tem pro­vides a light puz­zling el­e­ment. For ex­am­ple, many doors are locked and en­coded, but you can watch the holo­grams in­put these codes and then do so your­self. It’s only a light sprin­kling, though, mark­ing one area where the po­ten­tial of Ta­coma’s in­ter­ac­tive sto­ry­telling goes un­der­used.

The char­ac­ters are also beau­ti­fully writ­ten, with Full­bright draw­ing heav­ily from dif­fer­ent cul­tures and life­styles to bring to­gether a var­ied motley crew. One favourite is Natali, the diminu­tive yet fiery net­work spe­cial­ist who cre­ated the sta­tion’s AI, and whose re­la­tion­ship with the sta­tion’s main­te­nance op­er­a­tive Roberta is the cen­tre of many of the game’s more touch­ing moments. How­ever, all the char­ac­ters have quirks and back­sto­ries that stand out, from botanist An­drew’s strained re­la­tion­ship with his hus­band and son, to Dr Sareh’s cu­ri­ous ob­ses­sion with a so­cial me­dia su­per­star.

A hard sci-fi shell sur­rounds this soft, emo­tional core. Ta­coma’s broader themes deal with pow­er­ful mega­cor­po­ra­tions gam­bling over in­ter­plan­e­tary real es­tate, us­ing hu­man lives as chips. Mean­while, a sec­ondary thread con­cerns the value of ar­ti­fi­cial life, and when an AI de­serves the same rights as hu­mans. It’s ba­si­cally cy­ber­punk-light, lack­ing the crim­i­nal hack­ers and mir­ror-shaded as­sas­sins of Wil­liam Gib­son’s finest work, but pos­sess­ing the same re­bel­lious spirit.

The Ta­coma sta­tion it­self also matches the story’s rich and multi-lay­ered flavour. Full­bright’s vi­sion of the fu­ture mixes the sleek and func­tional with the quaint and com­fort­able, with curved lines and Ap­ple-es­que elec­tronic dis­plays. The sta­tion is shaped like a wheel axle, with mul­ti­ple loops spin­ning around a cen­tral hub. This hub is Zero-G, al­low­ing you to float to dif­fer­ent sec­tions of the sta­tion, where the cen­trifu­gal forces sim­u­late grav­ity.

But Ta­coma is also a place that feels exquisitely in­hab­ited. The Ta­coma crew mem­bers are creative and un­tidy, paint­ing mu­rals on the walls and leav­ing left­overs from last night’s party scat­tered about their liv­ing quar­ters. These ob­jects are more than en­vi­ron­men­tal de­tail­ing; they add tex­ture to the story. Natali’s liv­ing quar­ters, for ex­am­ple, are used as a stor­age room be­cause she bunks with Roberta, while the locker of the calm and quiet Dr Sareh is a shrine to fe­male body­build­ing.

There’s a lot to cel­e­brate about Ta­coma, but there’s a few lit­tle flaws. For ex­am­ple, the story’s late plot twist is a lit­tle pre­dictable. It’s well con­structed, but less sub­tle than the rest of the game. Also, the whole game clocks in at no more than two hours. Those two hours are en­joy­able, but Ta­coma isn’t for any­one look­ing for a time sink.

Over­all, though, Ta­coma is a fan­tas­tic fu­sion of big sci-fi ideas and lit­tle hu­man dra­mas, told in an in­ven­tive and in­ter­ac­tive man­ner, and wrapped up in a de­light­fully bro­ken-in vi­sion of the fu­ture.

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