Proving that video games can be art, Isentropic takes us through the artful world of Mind: Path to Thalamus. Watch the review and leave a comment below.
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G'day Glitch Vegas, I am Isentropic, and today we walk together in dreams of surreal beauty, and experience the environmental puzzles and affecting story of Mind: Path to Thalamus.
Mind: Path to Thalamus at its core, is a first person puzzle game, but as the story develops and the environments become more expansive and beautiful it becomes so much more. The brainchild of Carlos Coronado, Mind: Path to Thalamus, is the spiritual successor to COMA, an unreleased project that Coronado led and started.
I am a great believer in a video games ability to be art, and tackle very adult stories and themes, and that is exactly what this game does. Mind: Path to Thalamus puts you in the shoes of a man that has dedicated his life to the study of extreme weather, and due to this has placed himself and his daughter in jeopardy.
The game begins with the player searching frantically for his daughter, Sophia, as a tornado bears down on his home, destroying everything around you. As you search room by room through the house, the protagonist yells desperately to Sophia, and as the walls shake and the house is slowly torn apart, it is hard not to feel the desperation of the protagonist and be overwhelmed by the intensity of the situation.
I was hooked straight into the story during this powerful opening sequence, and with the game assuming that the player already knows how basic movement works, no time was wasted with needless on screen prompts, allowing for quick immersion. As the player continues to search for Sophia you are knocked unconscious, starting your journey through the inner workings of your mind, to the thalamus.
The game is minimalist with its on screen prompts, and with the purposefully basic controls I never felt that my progress was slowed due to a lack of explanation. I was having a great time, absorbing the story through the perfectly voice acted narration, while completing puzzles, when I suddenly realised I had just completed the tutorial phase of the game.
The player is led through each environment by the floating drawings of Sophia, with the protagonist weaving in explanations of mechanics and goals subtly in the narration. The game utilise a huge range of metaphors in the challenges and environment as the main character narrates his way through his painful memories and experiences. I don't want to ruin the story of Mind: Path to Thalamus by giving away plot points, but I will say this game was extremely moving and I was genuinely affected by the story of the main character.
The puzzle mechanics used in Mind: Path to Thalamus, are basic when considered conceptually, but are displayed beautifully in the environments. Players need to activate various environmental changes by placing themselves or small tumbleweed like balls in specific locations to allow them access to the goal of the area. The different environmental changes vary from changing between day and night, controlling fog, causing rain and controlling time.
Each environmental mechanic is introduced gradually keeping the puzzles fresh and challenging without overwhelming the player. I found myself stopping and taking in each puzzle mechanic when it is used, as the impact on the environment is breath taking. Players must also be careful not to run into the" trauma", which are black and red electrical balls, that represent the damage that has been done to the main character's brain. The puzzles in Mind: Path to Thalamus are perfectly paced and are never too easy, or too difficult, but still make the player think laterally about the environments.
The visuals of Mind: Path to Thalamus are the focus of the game, and are absolutely beautiful. I was forever slow panning each area and enjoying all of the intricate beauty of the environments. There are heaps of subtle metaphors relating to the story of the main character, and the use of minimalist area design creates surreal beauty while facilitating the puzzle focus of the game. One area that I found particularly beautiful, and fantastically designed, had the player traversing ice paths. These represented the synapses of the brain, with the images of his memories reflected on the ice surface.
Mind: Path to Thalamus continues its balance of minimalist design, with breath taking immersion, through the perfect use of sound and music. Many areas have no music at all with the sounds of the environment and the amazing voice acting of the narrator carrying the player perfectly. There were so many moments in this game when I would stop and listen to the rain drops splashing on the ground or enjoy the mystical wind blowing through the trees. During moments of beautiful environmental reveals or important character realisations, a gentle, but emotive piano score would resonate around the player, intensifying the situation. The piano score from Mind: Path to Thalamus is a beautiful piece of music, and I have found myself listening to it again and again since completing the game.
I was blown away by the beautiful visuals, emotive music and touching story of Mind: Path to Thalamus. This game is a shining example of how far video games have come, and how artistic they can be. My only criticism of the game is that some puzzles drag out a little due to the player having to cover large distances. The slow movement pace is only annoying in a couple of challenges and for the most part moving through the beautiful environments was a pleasure. I think all critics of the games industry as a form of art need to play this game, as the experience is something that will stick with you long after the credits roll. Mind: Path to Thalamus is an amazing game, and has earned 9 out of 10 from me.
Available on PC.