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Mind: Path to Thalamus Review

Frankly, the link between the visual changes and the practical alterations made to the map are somewhat tenuous. Rain helps things grow, sure, but how changing the season causes stone walkways to appear or disappear I'm not sure. Still, these sweeping transformations add to the visual splendour of the game, and make it pretty easy to remember what exactly it is you've done.

Mind: Path to Thalamus Review [THURSDAY] Mind: Path to Thalamus Review

It's superbly paced as well. Most puzzles are gently challenging without feeling obstructive to progress. I only got stuck for more than a few minutes once or twice. More importantly than that, whenever Thalamus feels like it's starting to repeat too much, it introduces a new element, or changes things up entirely. It's a fairly brief game, maybe four to five hours, but it wastes nary a second of your time. It is always intriguing, always compelling, always entertaining.

Well, almost.

Mind: Path to Thalamus Review [THURSDAY] Mind: Path to Thalamus Review

While visually and systemically Thalamus is fantastic, in terms of writing and voice acting the opposite is true. The story, to put it roughly, is about tornado chasing and daddy issues, with some pretty heavy themes of regret and redemption. That's all fine, a perfectly acceptable topic for a game to deliberate upon. Unfortunately, it's delivered with all the subtlety of a letterbomb.

The writing has a distinctly adolescent flavour, its indulgent angst far outstrips the writer's ability to put phrases together. Initially this is only slightly jarring, but the problem intensifies as the game goes along. The character you play, who doubles as the narrator, is a self-absorbed, egotistical idiot who constantly bemoans being a self-absorbed, egotistical idiot. It's vague when it should be specific and specific when it should be vague, asking the player to care about characters who you never see and the game never bothers to flesh out, then banging on constantly about why we should feel bad for these shapeless, formless ghosts.

Mind: Path to Thalamus Review [THURSDAY] Mind: Path to Thalamus Review


Then, near the end, it tries to rescue the story in the worst possible way, by performing a stumbling meta-commentary on how annoyingly self-absorbed the main character is, how he cares about nothing but absolving his own guilt. It's embarrassingly bad, to the point where
I was squirming in my chair listening to it. What doesn't help is the voice-acting is equally clunky. The actor's bold American tones and overemphasised delivery crash through the game's otherwise beautiful atmosphere like a rampaging elephant through the African bush.

The saddest fact of all this is, I really don't think Thalamus needs much of a script. Coronado is clearly adept at conveying a sense or feeling through imagery. Hence, I don't think it would be much of a stretch to perform the majority of the story work through the mindscapes that he has created. Thinking on this a little more, it is in fact quite strange that, given this is a game about traversing a person's mind, so much of the story is told explicitly to us, rather than shown to us in the environments.

Mind: Path to Thalamus Review [THURSDAY] Mind: Path to Thalamus Review


Although the writing is extremely clumsy, it didn't stop me from enjoying my time with Mind: Path to Thalamus. It's just a shame that such an otherwise ingeniously designed game falls so drastically short in one very obvious area. In many ways Thalamus a masterpiece in the original sense of the word, the work of a new talent that represents their graduation from apprentice to master craftsman. I doubt that Thalamus will be the best game Coronado makes, and that is a very exciting prospect indeed. Next time though, hire a writer for goodness sake.

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