A Virus Named Tom: Circuit Breaker

Lines and lines and lines
Here’s a cute little game that popped up at GDC Europe. It’s an action-puzzler with a rather nifty retro future vibe to it. The tongue-in-cheek, self-referential trailer raised a smile and the actual gameplay doesn’t look half bad either. From what I can gather, it’s a little like Pipe Mania, which you may know as the hacking game from Bioshock if you’re not an old fart. The difference here is that you actually control Tom, the virus, and must run around the grid switching connections around rather than simply clicking on them with a pointer. And it has co-op and competitive modes. Take a look.

The developers, Misfits Attic, have a strong background in animation and design and it’s evident. I think it works for them here; the cutscenes give the puzzle action a fun context and there’s character in the simplicity of what could be a boring grid.

The promise that things will get harder is welcome and it’s good to see that there are techniques for the player to use beyond simply constructing the pathways. The switching of circuits is the solution to the puzzles, of course, but avoiding or killing the enemies complicates matters. And on some of those later levels, there are a lot of enemies. It’s almost like a bullet-hell game in there, although obviously without any bullets. I like the look of the ‘life energy’ feature as well. It seems to be a risk-reward mechanic, allowing Tom to heal if he wanders close to the enemy drones, adding another job for the player to keep on top of.

The whole thing is suggestive of a simple set of tried and tested mechanics wrapped up in a charming story of a man taking a deadly revenge on an entire city. As always, it’s hard to know how much fun it’ll be before seeing the level design in more detail, but signs are promising. The co-op in particular isn’t something you often see in games of this type and the possibility of sabotaging friends’ efforts seems very real. That potential alone gives me hope.


  1. JackShandy says:

    Oh no, no comments! It’s ok, Mr. smith, I think it looks cool.

  2. Lambchops says:

    That trailer was rather charming (What! No rocket launcher?).

    I do like my puzzle games so I might give this one a try when it comes out.

  3. Tom says:

    wait, what?

  4. Gabe McGrath says:

    Nope, not old-fartish enough, Mr Smith.

    I’d suggest Circuit Breaker is much closer to Zenji (a game I had on cartridge for the C64). The mechanic is very similar, where you’d roll to each junction, then rotate them to let the ‘energy’ flow through the rest of the grid.

    Perhaps Circuit Breaker has a little bit of Amidar, mixed in too.

  5. ceebux says:

    Adam Smith likes Ghostpoet. I like Adam Smith.

    Oh. Videogame?

  6. aircool says:

    Reminds me of hacking in the original System Shock… or Locomotion on the ZX Speccy.

    • Josh W says:

      Did you not have the CD version or something? The only hacking I can think of in system shock was descenty-wireframy-“virtual reality” stuff.

  7. Josh W says:

    Cool, the near-miss effect looks like it would give regenerating health to those who like to be in the thick of it, but keep it black and white for the slower puzzle gamers. That actually suggests an alternative system to me for other games; instead of halo’s “stay back and get better” regenerating health, give players regenerating health only when they are close to enemies but not currently getting hit. Coupled with projectiles that are interesting to dodge, that could form and interesting alternate approach in an otherwise very scavengey snipey game.

    This game looks pretty fun too, like the sort of thing nitrome would make.