Last updated20:32, August 15 2017
What caused the six crew members of an orbital space station to abandon ship? Tacoma is a deep space detective game.
Exploring an abandoned space station after a disaster left the crew fighting for their lives sounds like the perfect set-up for a thrill-a-minute action game or nail-biting survival horror. Tacoma couldn't be further removed from that end of the gaming spectrum.
It's a seriously slow burner that makes Fullbright's previous "walking simulator" hit Gone Home feel like a Bayonetta boss battle.This is a game that you take at your own pace, soaking it in as youanalysetiny details.
There's no intense combat, no terrifying enemies or world to save. If you prefer your games to be a little more dynamic and exciting, then Tacoma probably won't be your cup of tea.
If, however, you're a fan of gripping narratives, fascinating characters and brilliantly delivered dialoguethen this is well worth checking out. I found it difficult to put down and enjoyed pretty much every minute of it
Captured conversations between the station's crew members are replayed by the Tacoma AI, allowing you to piece together the events that led up to the mysterious disaster.
Playing as security contractor Amy Ferrier, you arrive on the lunar orbital space station Tacoma in the wake of a orbital debris collision which destroyed the facilities communication mast and wiped out most of its oxygen supply.
The six-person crew that manned the station are nowhere to be found. It's your job to move from section to section, downloading data from the ship's AI system in an attempt to piece together what went wrong, and work out where the hell everybody went..
The good news is that the AI recorded everyinteraction between the crewmates during the year leading up to the accident. The bad news is that much of that data appears to have been corrupted or destroyed.
Most of the Tacoma station is covered by the installation's artificial gravity system, but travelling between each section is done in zero-g, allowing you to get your float on.
This means that you although you can access snippets of conversations, played out in real time by augmented reality figures that move around the Tacoma station. there are gaping holes in the narrative which you need to fill by fleshing out the characters' back-stories and exploring their abandoned home.
Effectively, you experience Tacoma as a series of theatrical plays, as you move from room to room, recovering the data and watching the 2-10 minute conversations with the crew unfold. Sometimes, characters will move around the facility as they're talking, requiring you to follow individuals around before rewinding and going back to see what everyone else was saying while you were away.
Full credit must go to the writing team and voice acting cast. The story is perfectly paced and delivered in fine style. The AR models have no facial features so the drama is conveyed entirely via dialogue and body language.
Exploring the various rooms and living quarters will uncover more clues and vital details about the station's inhabitants.
Despite the sci-fi setting, Tacoma is essentially a story about relationships. Not just between the crew members but between their friends and family on Earth and thecorporate overlords running the show.
You're also able to download data from character;s AR desktops (although much of this is also corrupted) giving you an insight into their lives via email chains, internet browsing history and image files.
Perhaps the creepiest part of the game though , is how you'reactively encouraged to go snooping through the crew's private living quarters looking for clues and items of interest.
Food wrappers, postcards, cups, coins and mementos. Every item you see on board the Tacoma can be picked up and pored over.
There's a certain voyeuristic thrill about searching through drawers, lockers and bedside tables and although some of the details you uncover arefascinating, it's hard not to feel like it's all a massive invasion of privacy.
It's also interesting how much of the junk and random items of interest have absolutely no bearing on the story whatsoever, but picking them up and analysing them somehow adds even more depth and realism to the experience. In most games, everything is there for a reason and it's rare to see a pixel wasted on something that doesn't serve an obvious purpose.
In Tacoma, scribbled notes, postcards, crumpled space-food wrappers, even a casually discardedsex toy in one couple's bedroom, have no real reason to be there, other than to make the abandoned space station feel like a real place, where real people lived, laughed and loved for a year prior to your arrival.
Tacoma isn't a particularly long game. Depending on how distracted you get and how deep you delve into the facility's nooks and crannies, you'll probably get through it in a few hours. You probably won't be too keen to replay it againeither - it's not a branching narrative game where your choices have a bearing on the ending or how events unfold.
It will almost certainly stay with you though, it's an innovative and interesting experience in interactive storytelling that you won't forget in a hurry.
Tacoma Developers: Fullbright Publishers: Microsoft Studios Formats: Xbox One, PC Price: $19(RRP) Score 8.5/10
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Tacoma review: A slow-burning space station mystery - Stuff.co.nz
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