THE TA­LOS PRIN­CI­PLE

Test­ing your men­tal fac­ul­ties in more ways than you thought

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Daniella Lucas

“It’s a strange but some­how re­lax­ing ex­pe­ri­ence”

At first glance this is a nifty puz­zle game where you play as a ro­bot, but thanks to some godly voices and pe­cu­liar hid­den sto­ries in ter­mi­nals you’ll soon start ques­tion­ing ev­ery­thing you think you know. The Ta­los Prin­ci­ple has far more go­ing on than first ap­pears. It’s been out on other con­soles and PC for a while now, but it’s fi­nally come to Xbox One with the DLC thrown in for free as an added bonus.

You’re an AI nav­i­gat­ing a vir­tual space af­ter hu­man­ity has died out due to a dis­ease who is be­ing tested to see if you’re ready to join the real world and con­tinue hu­man­ity’s lost legacy. Be­tween solv­ing puz­zles in­volv­ing lasers, locked gates and ag­gres­sive droids you’ll be faced with philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion­ing mak­ing you aware of your role in this bizarre world to the point where you’re un­sure of how much free will you ac­tu­ally have.

Ni­et­zsche ap­peal

This test­ing pro­gram takes the form of some beau­ti­ful aban­doned Greek is­land full of crum­bling ru­ins, but ex­pands out to snowy fields and pic­turesque deserts. It’s an odd set­ting for sci-fi test­ing con­trap­tions and com­puter ter­mi­nals but it works. The puz­zles them­selves are dif­fi­cult enough to be chal­leng­ing, but thank­fully not ob­tuse enough to feel un­fair. El­e­ments grad­u­ally layer on top of each other so the dif­fi­culty ramps up over time. You start with some sim­ple laser po­si­tion­ing to open gates, but soon you’ll be guid­ing droids through them to avoid them or trick­ing tur­rets into at­tack­ing them to avoid their ire.

Oc­ca­sion­ally we did find our­selves frus­trated at not be­ing able to solve some­thing, but vanishing to try some­thing else is of­ten the an­swer – other puz­zles might give you a gen­tle poke on how to solve some­thing you were strug­gling with be­fore. You’re open to tackle things in any or­der you wish so it’s in your best in­ter­ests to ex­plore what else is out there. Es­pe­cially the mys­te­ri­ous tower at the cen­tre of this world, and the com­puter ter­mi­nals dot­ted around con­tain­ing snip­pets of lore that hint at how the world crum­bled.

The story does get a bit much at times: full of ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions about your free­dom of choice and role in this world, it can feel a bit preachy – like it’s try­ing too hard. It feels like a slightly odd com­pan­ion to all of the ex­cel­lent puz­zling – it’s two dif­fer­ent kinds of men­tal tax­a­tion butting heads with each other as each vies for your at­ten­tion. The delv­ing into a lost civil­i­sa­tion and core con­cepts of be­ing tested make for a solid back­drop, but when things start to go deeper it all feels a bit su­per­fi­cial – like a phi­los­o­phy stu­dent try­ing too hard to im­press you in a bar.

Thank­fully it doesn’t dis­tract from the puz­zling too much – you could quite hap­pily ig­nore it all in your quest to find Tetris-like blocks to un­lock even more brain teasers. The last sec­tion does get rather te­dious though, forc­ing you to en­gage more with the story and a lot of those bits will be lost on you if you haven’t spent many hours pok­ing around the com­put­ers be­fore­hand.

It’s a strange but some­how re­lax­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and makes for a nice pal­ette cleanser be­fore the on­slaught of ac­tion games in the run-up to Christ­mas. If you’re look­ing for some­thing to stretch your brain mus­cles a bit then this will cer­tainly fit the bill, even if does make you raise a few scep­ti­cal eye­brows over some of its philo­soph­i­cal of­fer­ings.

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