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A Virus Named Tom: Circuit Breaker

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.

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