“How many times will you kill her?” In Mind: Path to Thalamus, you will keep asking yourself that very question as you attempt to solve the puzzles that stand in-between you and a chance of forgiveness, and even consciousness. If you haven’t kept up with the news, we covered the synopsis back in May.
You start in the middle of a horrible storm with a tornado coming right at you. It’s immediately intense and catches you off guard, as you typically don’t expect something of that nature to be thrown at you from the very beginning. As you try to find cover, you are desperately looking for your little girl Sophia, but by the time you get inside the house to check the closet upstairs, the tornado has already reached the house, knocking you out and leaving you in a coma.
I have never really been into the puzzle genre, but after playing Path to Thalamus, I would have to say that has changed. The game will definitely make you sit and think on a few puzzles, while the answers to others will flow seamlessly.
Puzzles are solved by the player using the mechanics that are on the map. These are activated either by standing in the designated area or by placing an object inside of it. This usually indicates that each mechanic must be used in order to complete the puzzle – perhaps not all at the same time, but at least once. The object that is needed to keep these mechanics activated looks like a string ball. These balls can only be picked up and set down; they cannot be thrown or manipulated in any way, and they are your best friend when it comes to finding the solution to the puzzle. There is, however, a secret twist you need to know: there are also balls that can only be seen or picked up during night time. This means the player will have to activate the night mechanic in order to use the ball for something else. I think this is the coolest aspect of the game, because now you can get even more creative when it comes to triggering mechanics in a certain way, making sure the timing is just right in order to get to the next platform.
Speaking of thinking, there are some very tricky levels in which you might need to ask for assistance on. A good portion of puzzles are very easy to solve but can be a bit time consuming. Timing is sometimes essential and even a bit of creativity is needed once in a while. Truthfully, I found myself using unconventional methods on certain puzzles because I couldn’t figure out the darn thing – only to find out later how obvious the solution really was. In order to complete the puzzles, there are special mechanics, such as day and night cycles, portals, rain, fog, and even a construction mechanic, that have an effect on how you will get to your final destination.
There are some physics within the game, so utilizing gravity – for example, rolling a ball down the hill to a specific mechanic while running up into a portal before it activates – is one heck of a cool challenge. It really inspired me to use my creative thinking to see how I could complete the puzzle, although I kind of over-thought my approaches and got a little frustrated half way through the game. The difficulty of Path to Thalamus really isn’t that hard, but you might want to be in a patient mood before tackling this game.
Another aspect that makes this game enjoyable is the amount of freedom you have when exploring the maps, and utilizing the dynamic weather effects. Turn day into night to reveal hidden portals and objects needed to complete the task, make it rain to raise broken bridges to get you across vast valleys, bring in dense fog that completely surrounds you and your environment, and even magically re-build broken structures to get to unreachable places.
Graphically, the game is amazing – I don’t think I’ve played a puzzle game where I was more into exploring the map then actually completing the task at hand. The lighting is wonderful and it really adds to the immersion aspect while you are playing, however I did feel that some levels looked a bit bland and empty. From dark, eerie-feeling tunnels to wide open and jaw dropping valleys, Path to Thalamus really makes you appreciate the capabilities of an open mind and the creative aspects that can be molded into it.
In terms of audio and sound effects, the narration and voice over is very well done. The ambient noises for the level designs are great and for the most part fit the game, depending on what the environment is like but I feel like there could have been more than just a couple of sound files for certain weather effects. There are also some small audio details that could have been worked on to match a real life scenario – every time it started to rain in a beautiful grassy field, the rain sounded like it was hitting the concrete outside of my front door; small details like these are very important to players who are looking to be sucked into the game, and it is those details that leave a better experience as well.
Overall, Path to Thalamus is an enjoyable experience and it’ll take roughly four hours to complete. There are plenty of Steam achievements to get and it is definitely worth playing a second time, however I must give a big thank you to Carlos Coronado for providing a review copy before release and I hope that we can see other unique puzzlers like this in the future with even more challenging levels and dynamic effects that will completely turn the world upside down – and perhaps some mod support too.