A Virus Named TOM by Misfits Attic might seem like a generic pipe-style puzzler on the surface, but as you play through the game it becomes apparent that it is something much more. The game succeeds in differentiate itself from the rest the puzzle genre by implementing some interesting ideas that make the gameplay surprisingly fun and challenging.
You are TOM, a virus created by Dr. X who was an inventor for a major corporation, who has built contraptions like teleporters and robotic dogs that change the world. Being recently fired from his job, he goes ‘mad’ and decides to go on a quest for revenge by causing all his machinations to malfunction. That is where you come in.
There wasn’t anything particularly interesting about the story itself, but the way it was presented was what made it entertaining. The writing is great, and oozing with personality and humor. The cutscenes are done with cartoony still images that have a unique art-style that reminds me of old, early to mid 1900s animated shows.
The visuals fit the feel of the game’s atmosphere perfectly, and the soundtrack specifically is outstanding. Filled with a variety of catchy electronic tunes that match the techy look of machines and circuits, it wasn’t long before these songs got stuck in my head.
In the vein of puzzle games like Pipe Dream, the goal of each puzzle in A Virus Named TOM is to connect all of the pieces together to make a complete path to spread the infection. This is achieved by grinding on a specific square of the grid to rotate the piece of your choice.
You are reward with either a gold, silver, or bronze medal depending on how fast you solved the stage. The first few levels are very easy but it doesn’t let you get too comfortable as things get challenging fast. The introduction of obstacles like hidden tiles, anti-viruses that patrol the grid at varying speeds, or the mechanic of strategically causing an enemy to collide with a trojan in order to infect make the game extremely complex. I found myself screaming at the stages with hidden puzzles.
It really tests your skills of memorization and adaptability as these circuits are completely skewed from your view with question marks and static, with a collided trojan giving you visibility only for a split second. However, it is very rewarding when you end up solving those difficult puzzles.
Despite the fact that the single player is good, the selling point for me personally is the co-op mode. With support of up to 4 players and unique levels separate from the single player, the co-op is both chaotic and satisfying.
There are levels that have a dividing line down the middle of the grid, separating the players. You’d have to work together to complete the circuits, each doing his or her own part on their own side of the grid, as the puzzle is inpossible to complete solo. While playing through the co-op levels with a friend, I couldn’t help but think about Portal 2’s co-op experience, as I got a little bit of the same feeling here concept-wise. The only downside here is that there is no online component as it only supports locally, which is a shame.
There is also a multiplayer VS mode, which I found fun at first but became stale as time went on. The goal in multiplayer is to grind the rails to claim as much of the screen for yourself as you can, all while trying to prevent your friends doing the same by killing them and taking their claimed areas.
With 4 players, the screen became a dangerous and uncontrollable battlefield. Sadly, while entertaining at first there isn’t really much depth to it, which caused a loss of interest after the first few matches. Regardless of its faults, A Virus Named TOM is a fun little indie game that’s well worth its asking price. If you’re looking for an engaging puzzler this one is a no-brainer, but if you’ve got a friend you can play co-op locally, it is a must buy.