‘Tacoma’ Mashes Up Video Games And Experimental Theater

Gone Home, the Fullbright Company’s first game, got knocked for being more interested in storytelling than mechanics. Tacoma ($20, out today for PC platforms and Xbox One) promised to be something different, and it is. While some may argue about the experimental nature of the game, there’s no denying you haven’t ever played a game quite like Tacoma.

You play as Amy Ferrier, a contractor with a megacorp sent to investigate what happened on the abandoned Tacoma space station. Fortunately, since the future is a corporate dystopia, everything on the station has been recorded in augmented reality. In other words, you can recover data and follow the technological ghosts of the crew around as they freak out in the face of certain disaster when the station is hit by debris and they attempt to cobble together a desperate survival plan:

You’ll have to watch each “recording” from multiple perspectives, following the ghosts around and piecing together a few timelines, to get the whole story. It’s not just walking, though: there’s some light puzzle solving involved as you track down keys, figure out passcodes, and generally snoop around to learn more about the past of crew members. The story breadcrumbs you track down aren’t strictly crucial to the plot, although they flesh out the motivations of some of the characters, but they’re fun to hunt for as Fullbright has hidden little bits and pieces everywhere, right down to a sleeping kitty in each major “level.”

While there aren’t any guns, this is a bit more of a game than Gone Home. Tacoma nudges you a bit with a scavenger hunt in each major section. If you find a specific person at the right point in the tape, you’ll be able to access their personal data, so you’ll want to hunt around a bit and get those. Similarly, working out the passcodes to various areas is a bit more involved than just finding the right sticky-note. To fully finish each area, you’ll need to dig through drawers and get creative to unlock all the secrets.

What makes Tacoma compelling is that it’s a story about people. For all the sci-fi trappings, these are contractors with jobs, families, and personal connections that you can uncover. You quickly get to know and care about these ghosts, and that’s what makes the game so fascinating. Tacoma is over a bit too quickly, perhaps, but that’s only a criticism because you’ll wish you could spend more time on the abandoned space station, communing with those left behind.

Verdict: Clear Your Calendar