Tacoma, by Fullbright studios was designed with a similar narrative blueprint to Gone Home, but Tacoma has introduced a much more interactive element that has its own artistic value.
You play an investigator on a derelict space station that has recorded the activities of its crew during their time onboard. You’re job is to sort of Tony Stark your way through these holographic recordings, fast forwarding and rewinding them so that you can view the separate conversations that took place, before and after the crew members converged into groups. You do this so that you can uncover what led the station to be in its current state and the fate of the crew.
I want to start by being upfront that not everyone will like this game. There’s no action whatsoever. There is never a point where you come to realize that the station is infested with aliens and loot a gun off a dead space marine. It isn’t that kind of game. I wouldn’t even really consider it a puzzler, as following the story unlocks progress without the need for much problem solving.
The same way Gone Home was just an empty house, Tacoma is just an empty space station. Well, empty is the wrong word. Neither game features any non-player characters, but the sets are full to bursting with information that’s just begging to be found. You’ll explore an office and find passive aggressive emails on a holographic monitor, cat toys and family photos. You’ll go through their bathrooms and look at their prescriptions. You’ll hear recorded conversations between friends enemies and significant others. They’re all puzzle pieces to help you figure out who these people were and what happened to them.
Writers often set restrictions or limits for themselves in order to exercise the ability to work around some aspect of storytelling they might have been using as a crutch.
They might say…
I’m going to write a story with no dialogue.
I’m going to write a story using only dialogue.
I’m going to write a story where every paragraph is from a different person’s perspective.
I’m going to write a story where every third word begins with the letter T.
And so on…
It’s similar to how a painter like Picasso might decide to do a series using only the color blue. These kinds of limits can actually unlock a greater amount of creativity by making an artificial problem for the artist to solve.
Gone Home and Tacoma decided to tell a story using only the environment, and in doing so, they showed us exactly how telling an environment can be.
It also just has a quality story. It covers themes ranging from artificial intelligence to corporate greed and worker’s rights. The crew is made up of unique and interesting characters and the plot has one or two solid twists that are sure to keep your attention.
So if you want to try something outside of the usual, or if you’re curious about how a game can slowly reveal a deeply human story just by using holograms and scraps of paper, then Tacoma might be for you. There is certainly plenty of appeal for the Sherlock Holms’ among you who love piecing together a juicy mystery, but there is also something Zen about wondering through these abandoned places. I recommend playing alone, late in the evening, when there’s no one around to distract you. These games deserve focus.