When I saw the trailers for Tacoma, I was intrigued. Although I wasn’t quite sure what secrets the game would hold, I knew there was a space mystery to solve, and I wanted to be the one to do so. Tacoma features a uniquely space-sleuthing experience, where players are encouraged to look throughout the Tacoma space station to uncover the events leading up to your arrival. Although there isn’t a ton of variety with respect to gameplay, the playthrough feels rather paltry, and there are numerous bug and glitches, Tacoma executes an interesting idea well with the help of AR memory recovery, colorful scenes and fantastic voice acting.
You will play through the entirety of Tacoma as Amy, a space contractor sent to investigate a space station that has been abandoned. As you arrive at the Tacoma space station in 2088, you will find an eerie silence that only the memories of those who once inhabited the space station can fill. You have been tasked with the simple job of exploring Tacoma one area at a time, recovering data to reconstruct the events of the relatively recent past leading to the station’s current empty state. As it is 2088, players will find advanced space technology that allows you to peek into the living quarters and conversations of the six individuals who have since left Tacoma. By the end of the game, you will feel like a true voyeur, having snooped through the lives of six strangers, listening in on emotional conversations, and sifting through their personal belongings. If you’re a fan of completely interactive games, Tacoma is right up your alley, as there is nothing you can’t interact with in some way.
“Tacoma is a simple, yet fun narrative driven game that brings time and space together.”
A nice thing about Tacoma too is that you make your way through the different sections of the space station, with or without your data capturing device, as leisurely as you like. You don’t have to worry that something will jump out of the dark at you, or something will suddenly endanger the mission. In one of the most straightforward game plots I’ve played in a long time. There is really only one mission that needs to be completed before you can disembark from Tacoma: retrieve the data from the space station. With the video capturing abilities built into the space station by the capitalist company Venturi, you are able to complete your task by simply following around the characters and listening to their conversations. This can be done at whatever pace you like as well because the only real controls you have to worry about is rewinding, fast forwarding and pausing these AR memories as you figure out where to move on to next. The controls are just as straightforward as the 1 and a half to 3-hour gameplay, offering screen prompts and no source of confusion.
The AI makes up a large portion of Tacoma, considering you are watching the events of six very different individuals deal with the disasters aboard the space station. Every action they take or path they walk is done with such precision that it quickly becomes obvious these characters were crafted with the utmost care. From the inner workings of the relationships, and friendships between the characters, to the hardships each of the six individuals will face along the journey, the story keeps you intrigued the whole way through with the help of these carefully designed AI.
As you might imagine, involving yourself in the affairs of others can be quite captivating, especially when the voices behind the colorful individuals are so well done. As a story-based narrative, this is exactly the case with Tacoma. The people behind the voices of the six individuals should applaud themselves for their hard work and careful portrayal of the characters because, by the end of this game, I felt invested in each of the characters well being. The most interesting part of that statement is that I still feel that way after having exactly zero interaction with any of the six characters, except through the AR memories. Each of the six individuals is unique in their thoughts and personality, which is why it becomes so easy to feel connected to them even when only observing their lives from the outside.
“The people behind the voices of the six individuals should applaud themselves for their hard work and careful portrayal of the characters”
While the graphics are quite rudimentary, and the sound only really exists to tell the story, neither one detracts from the gameplay in any way. In fact, even though the graphics are simple, they pair well with the simplicity of the gameplay and controls of Tacoma. The colorful, faceless characters actually make the game pop and help differentiate between who is talking throughout the story. In fact, one of my favorite parts of Tacoma is beginning an AR data retrieval process and seeing the story quite literally come alive with color!
Now even though Tacoma is well crafted, I can’t help but feel that it was maybe a bit too simple, with no real variety added to the main story mission. The entire game is really just walking around, picking up various items, and gathering data. If it weren’t for the unique idea behind the story, and the perfectly executed character design, the entire game could have ended up a snooze fest. Of course, maybe this is why the play through only took me about two hours. Unfortunately, the rather enjoyable narrative comes to a bit of a quick end after the data collection is over, which is honestly not what I was expecting at all. You know what they say about these small things though, c’est la vie!
Unfortunately, this lack of variety was not the only problem in Tacoma. One true annoyance comes in the form of various glitches and bugs throughout Tacoma, all of which start, quite literally right from the beginning. I spent a good hour just trying to get into the game after having played the first 30 minutes the night before. I literally sat, staring at the screen, kept pressing A, as the screen refused to change. And, just as I was about to give up and call it a night, the screen finally faded, as the loading screen took its place. And while I’d love to say that was the one and only problem I encountered while playing Tacoma, I also dealt with frame freezes and screen clipping. One thing is surely an annoyance, but having to deal with three different, yet equally frustrating issues is nothing short of awful. I’m hoping that Fullbright will fix this soon, however, only time will tell.
Although Tacoma is short, it does a fantastic job telling the stories of the different characters throughout the game, using the non-sequential AR memory recordings to build emotional ties to each. Tacoma is a simple, yet fun narrative driven game that brings time and space together. Although it would have been nice to have a bit more variety, and a longer story without any glitches, Tacoma uses strong voice acting, colorful characters, and an interesting game premise to more than makeup for what it lacks.
*** Reviewed on the Xbox One ***
- Interesting game idea
- Great voice-acting
- Short gameplay
- Riddled with glitches
- Not a lot of variety