For those of you who aren’t particularly fantastic at puzzle games, no need to worry. If A Virus Named Tom’s Matrix-esque aesthetics don’t win you over, its ‘n00b mode’ is sure to tickle your fancy. Coupled with generous helpings of skip tokens, simply being useless at puzzle games is no longer an excuse to not give this game a go. A great sense of humor, good voice acting fun gameplay and funktastic music makes Misfits Attic’s A Virus Named Tom a fun and memorable puzzle game.
The story revolves around Dr. X, the talented scientist who single handedly built ‘the city of the future’ with his scientific breakthroughs in technology, from “metal dogs that don’t poop” to pavements that don’t require you to walk. Unfortunately, Dr. X’s ‘Globotron enforcer’ doesn’t go down too well with the company he works for, and he is fired. Now seeking revenge on the city of tomorrow, he builds you, a virus (named TOM), to destroy all the technological wonders the city has come to rely on.
While the game isn’t particularly innovative (both Bomberman and the hacking mini-game in Bioshock spring to mind while playing), it is fun and entertaining not to mention charming. While the game’s difficulty can be toned down for those who find some of the puzzles unfathomable, choosing higher difficulties on the game provides more than enough challenge. A steady difficulty curve introduces you to each feature of the game one step at a time. This means that although the game can have you stumped at times, you won’t find yourself throwing the controller at the screen and rage quitting because you find yourself stuck at the same point for hours.
Each stage is represented as a piece of equipment within the city, with various components, and each component represents a level. Each level requires you to connect a series of wires together to complete a ‘circuit’, rotating them until they fit while maneuvering across a wire-mesh of squares. The levels are timed, and failure results when your time is run out. However, similarly to Sine Mora, your life is linked to the time, and taking damage causes your time bar to run short, costing you points and precious seconds of puzzle-solving action.
Complete each level, and you sabotage the equipment, allowing Dr. X to exact his revenge. At the end of each level you receive a grade of gold, silver or bronze depending on your time. Completionists will love this feature as no matter how long it takes you to complete a level, once you know how the puzzle works, you can immediately hit ‘b’ on the controller and replay the level, completing it in a fraction of a second and earning yourself a gold medal.
Starting out simply solving the puzzles themselves, the game then throws multiple other hurdles your way. Amongst these things are encryptions that hide the shapes of the wires and little anti-virus spiders that travel the mesh with you and destroy you on contact. You have ‘glitches’ to combat these, which slow the spiders down for a few seconds, but ultimately you’re going to have to keep an eye on the puzzle, AND the fast-moving-spider-things running across the screen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at mastering this skill and every time a anti-virus crashed into me I’d squeal like a little girl, much to the amusement of my friends.
Which brings me nicely to the co-op/versus modes. The co-op mode follows the same puzzles as the story mode, only slightly modified to accommodate a second, third or fourth player. While this mode is aimed at cooperative play, and certain levels have barriers down the middle preventing players from encroaching on the other’s puzzle-ness, most levels don’t, and you receive a grade at the end along with what percentage of the puzzle you’ve completed, making all but the most relaxed players battle it out to score the most. Friendships will be destroyed, but I’m sure that’s all part of Dr. X’s diabolical plan.
As for the versus mode, well that’s just all out warfare. I’m sure you’ve all played a game like it – each player draws patterns on the screen, and if you manage to connect those patterns to your ‘base’, you claim the the territory inside the patterns as your own. The player at the end of round with the most territory wins. Of course, if the player is killed by a glitch bomb, then their territory becomes unlocked and up for grabs, which leads to certain players trying to screw over the other player just to make sure they don’t win. It’s insanely annoying, but a helluva lot of fun. Ultimately, that’s what A Virus Named Tom boils down to.
With the beta now being offered for 50% off dropping the price to $4.99, this becomes a steal. The puzzles are more frantic than confusing, as is the verses mode. A lot of fun can be had with this game, and the only bad thing I can think of is the silly idea for a computer game to be named after a virus. Every time I see it pop up on my recent downloads I get a tiny wave of panic swoop over my heart. But if that’s the worse one can say about a PC title then kudos to Misfits Attic.
A Virus Named Tom Technical Summary:
- Time Played – 4 Hours Total (2 SP / 2 MP)
- Widescreen Support – Yes (Runs at native Windows resolution)
- 5.1 Audio Support – No
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None Reported
- Control Scheme – XBox 360 Controller, Keyboard
- DRM – None
- System Specs – GTX 460, Core2 Quad 2.4GHz, 4GB RAM
- Game Acquisition Method – Beta Preview Copy
- Availability – Official Site, Desura, Steam (Coming Soon)