Mind: Path to Thalamus, is the creation of Carlos Coronado. A single player, first person puzzle game whereby the player may control the environment in order to progress through detailed, and at times, gorgeous landscapes. Make no mistake, this game is beautiful, both visually and aesthetically.
The story opens in an unexpectedly exciting and dramatic way. In the distance a tornado menacingly draws near to your character, wind howls through the air and objects are propelled dangerously around you, the sound is deafening and terrifying. You’re searching for “Sophia”, eagerly attempting to locate her, panicked by the impending doom on the horizon. You search without avail, and then light…
Visually, the game is stunning. In one section the map shows a detailed and picturesque landscape covering the world ahead. It stretches effortlessly into the distance, lush green grass moves hypnotically in the breeze. Water flows and meanders peacefully around the bends etched into the earth; rippling water laps gently onto the embankment. Another section is more synonymous with a dream, blue skies that seem to go on forever, gentle clouds that float weightlessly above. Still water reflecting a parallel world with mirrored perfection, no wind, just silence and beauty. The game is a marvel to behold, one which I feel deserves to be given an appropriate accolade.
Mind: Path to Thalamus is masterful in it’s control of atmosphere. Sound and visuals are wonderfully harnessed to construct a detailed and absorbing environment. As a player, you’re drawn into a mysterious and dream-like world, endlessly searching for Sophia. The story is narrated through the voice of the main character; in essence, you. The further you progress, the more detail is provided explaining why your character is burden with guilt, and why you find yourself locked within the world. The story is intriguing and veiled in mystery, so much so that I found myself wanting to move forward to learn what had happened and why I was there; similar to reading a gripping novel you simply can’t put down until the end.
In order to progress, the player must solve a collection of puzzles. The game is gentle with the player in the early stages, encouraging you to learn the mechanics through trial and error. Simplistic actions such as placing an item within a certain area of the map will unlock a previously inaccessible zone. The complexity of the puzzles increases as the player moves further into the game; although the difficulty throughout seems to be weighted appropriately and satisfyingly.
A variety of orbs can be found within each level, they can be collected, carried and placed at the discretion of the player. They each have their own properties and may play a key role in solving a puzzle. For example, an orb may be placed at a location that causes light to transcend into darkness, thus enabling the player to locate another orb that can be seen only at night. The solution is simple, but the journey required to discover such simplicity may require both time and thought; although there is always a real sense of accomplishment.
Mind: Path to Thalamus is not without fault. The design of the orbs when held by the player is too large. The orb can obstruct the view of the landscape. On occasion, the orb is so bright that the player may only see the peripheral of the screen, this is frustrating and unnecessary. This seems to pull the player from the emergence of the game and back to reality, which is counter productive to a previously full and encapsulating experience.
As with the majority of puzzle games, game-play and longevity is something that may be questionable. I have played the game from start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. However, on second play, the puzzles that had previously caused some difficulty, were now understandably simple and effortless. The game was still beautiful, but the reward was not as accomplished or satisfying.
The game is narrated by the main character, the script is a beautiful collaboration of almost poetic charm. As you progress, you gain a real understanding about the vulnerability of your character, it is easy to empathize with him. Unfortunately, the voice acting contradicts the content of the script. His voice is stale and emotionless. this doesn’t fit well with the exemplary visual design of the game.
Nevertheless, Mind: Path to Thalamus, is a successful and prevalent piece of work. It bridges a gap between entertainment, gaming and art. It beholds an exhilarating and emotional experience. It challenges your mind without holding your hand and guiding you too blatantly. The rewards are personal, as a player you feel a real sense of accomplishment. The game is marred in some respects, but other than this, Mind: Path to Thalamus is a must have title for any serious gamer.
Currently retailing at around £9.99/$25, this is definite value for money. If you do anything this year, make sure you play this title at least once, you certainly won’t regret it.