Tacoma is a walking adventure story published and developed by Fullbright, the studio behind Gone Home. You have arrived on the space station to investigate an incident which has recently occurred and to retrieve the on board AI. To do so, you will navigate through the station with the help of an AR system which will allow you to interpret interactions between the stations’ crew. Have the crew managed to contain the incident and get themselves to safety? Is it an enjoyable experience? You’ll have to play through to find out.
There are plenty of games set in space, one recently came out for the PS5 called Fort Solis and has been reviewed by Abi Westy.
Story – Interesting Throughout… But Is It Engaging?
You play as Amitjyoti “Amy” Ferrier, a subcontractor employed by the Venturis Corporation to investigate the space station Tacoma. You are to retrieve the AI data from each section of the station and retrieve the physical processor of the stations AI, ODIN (Operating Data interface Network).
However, the games’ story really takes place when Amy takes control of the AR system on board. By using the earpieces, she can review past conversations which have taken place between the crew & figure out what happened. Crew interactions are scattered throughout the station and often have them talking between themselves, by themselves or as a group. They were well acted and felt realistic.
The story shows the humanity within each character; to themselves and to each other, showing their desperation, frustration and fatigue. However, personally I had a slight detachment to their plight, being an observer rather than an active participant. I was certainly interested but more about what happened next rather than their personal dilemmas.
In the background permeating proceedings is the Venturis Corporation in how they deal with their employees; how they demand constant performance reviews, promoting things like “loyalty debt” and how they treat (or rather, control) their staff. I would be remiss to explain further.
The story is an enjoyable length which could be completed in one sitting if you’re unlike me and investigate every possible nook and cranny. I will say that I found the finish to be good but a little too neat and that the ending is extremely abrupt which was disappointing, but I wouldn’t say it will impact your overall enjoyment.
Overall it is worth experiencing but I would find it hard to recommend playing through again. I will admit it is well done though.
Gameplay – Enjoyable but Lacking Engagement
It is hard to say what is “wrong” with Tacoma; what it does, it does well – I just wish there was more to it.
Amy travels through the station and she controls completely fine, never had any problems. The prime gameplay loop is to explore the station to find the AR recordings. When these scenarios occur, there is a bar at the bottom of the screen allowing you play through a conversation at your own pace. The recording bar also indicates that certain people are of specific interest. They will be using a character menu screen which you can interact with to see specific information; who do they talk to? Do they have any hobbies? What information are they checking out? Sometimes this data was corrupted, which was a nice touch, but was disappointing not to learn more. By the end I did find this part of the experience to be a bit rote.
Following an AR conversation usually meant you could follow certain characters to different parts of the station. Multiple conversations could happen at the same time, and they could converge or split up as previously stated. You were able to access previously locked areas which was cool. More important is that you saw different perspectives and talking points.
Your own character menu screen is important. It allows you to see where you are in the station. Reminds you of your main objective. You can read emails etc. However, I wish the menu was placed further back as it was too close to the screen. I had look left and right constantly to read information.
Exploring the actual station for things to do was hit and miss. You can pick up and manipulate lots of smaller items within the environment, from a coffee cup to duct tape. This was superfluous, a gimmick. In this regard, I’m not sure why it was implemented. There aren’t any puzzles which involve physical interaction either.
What does involve physical interaction are the minigames available. These were very small asides which broke up the gameplay slightly. From playing basketball, pool or being able to use a punching bag, they were fun for a few moments.
One which is cool was trying to find all the cats which were present in the AR recordings. Alas, I didn’t them all. Sad times.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable experience but if it wasn’t for the games’ main investigation concept, I’d say that exploring the station was interesting but also too simple; there isn’t a lot to interact with gameplay wise.
Sadly, I do have to warn people that I had several crashes while playing this game. I did ask people I know, and they reported having similar problems. For my playthrough I must report that if you were to stay still or pause the game for too long then it could crash.
When I was near the end of the game, I watched an AR conversation which slowed down my game to the point where it was unplayable. had to reboot it. Pausing the game wouldn’t allow me to go between the options, so I had to close the application.
The game did crash enough times to corrupt my save data.
Graphics & Audio – Excellently Done
From the opening cinematic, this looked good. Seeing the Earth in the distance as you docked shows how far way you are. The station looks great. From the grey and metallic insides, there are also plenty of windows to show the infinite expanse of space. There were corridors with imposing walls, office areas which looks lived in – bed used, desks filled with coffee cups and wrappers. Dining areas with tables which had plans and charts strewn all over.
When watching AR conversations, characters are displayed as colourful silhouettes connected to a wire frame. They light up every time they speak and move realistically. Coupled with excellent voice acting, they brought characters to life and were likable. Considering they are minimalist in presentation, characters felt human which was very well done.
I liked going through the main corridor and seeing each section move counter clockwise to each other. I also like the animations shown, they physically show you opening a cargo door. When you use the lift – one foot in the saddle, one hand on the hook. Amy has a tablet which can download information, it is shown connecting physically to the station. Speaking of animations however, physical interaction with environmental objects isn’t shown which was disappointing; you “hold” things in front of you.
Actual music was non-existent unless played within AR recordings. This added to the realism of being on board. Sound itself was excellent; going through corridors, there were bangs, gurgles, whirring, the sound of liquid, the sound of energy from fission rods. The station felt alive.
Tacoma was played and reviewed on PS4.