I’m no stranger to puzzle games. I’ve played way too many to count. I enjoy good brainteasers every once in a while, and I respect the ones that really push me to think. Aside from the small worry that a game titled A Virus Named TOM might erase your hard drive and put all of the pictures in that “special” folder on the Internet, this little puzzle game has some pretty big mindbenders in store for players.
You play as none other than TOM, a computer virus that has been sent to inventions that he created in order to get revenge on the company that fired him and ultimately, stopped him from showing off his true brilliance. As TOM, you will infect and destroy things through the CPU and ruin the company along with the appliances people use in their everyday lives.
The game is essentially Pipe Dream, or the hacking mini-game from Bioshock for the younger readers. You must navigate an electrical spark from one area to all the circuits in the board to infect all of them. You can rotate a piece by holding down a button and moving around the piece. Connecting circuits will then flow the current through, and you can continue to connect other tiles. It seems simple, and it is an accessible concept, but you will quickly see how difficult this can be when a few monkey wrenches have been thrown in.
Things start off easy until the company catches wind of what TOM is doing and begins throwing in defenses. Anti-virus programs that look like bugs, encryption codes that make the board pieces appear as question marks and only reveal what the piece is when a current is going through it and current absorbing programs that undo your work all stand in your way.
TOM is not without some defense as well. He can use destroying programs called glitch bombs that will catch an anti-virus program and halt it in it tracks. If another program runs into the stopped program, it destroy them both for a short period of time. These can also be used to eliminate current absorbing programs and release an electrical current into the circuits so you can continue with your virus spreading.
TOM has an energy meter, and when it runs out, he will fail the mission. If TOM is hit by an anti-virus program, he will lose some energy as well, so finishing a level quickly while still trying to avoid programs is a sometimes frantic balance. If you ever do get stuck on a level, you can earn skip tokens that will allow you to pass on a level and move on to the next.
The action is so harried that the game can become frustratingly difficult. This can happen early on in the single player story. Instead of completing levels how you want, you can begin to see that the game has specific solutions for completing the challenges. Sometimes, you have to abide in order to succeed. This will result in trial and error for some levels, which can get bothersome at times.
The game offers up co-op play as well. You and a friend can team up on a grid and get it done in half the speed it would normally take a single person. That is, of course, if you can work together and your friend is not a complete moron. Unfortunately, the co-op is limited to local play only. With a keyboard and mouse, it may get a little cramped, but the game does support gamepads, and the 360 controller works perfectly. The co-op is actually fun and when taking on a really difficult puzzle with your buddies, it feels pretty good.
When you get tired of having your friends try to help you in taking down the puzzles, you can take them on in versus. This mode has you trying to box in your friends while using glitch bombs to blow them up while stuck in the box you just created. It’s almost like Bomberman. It’s a decent distraction, but the co-op is where the game shines.
A Virus Named TOM is a decent little puzzler. Fans of the genre will enjoy it, and if you can play the co-op, you and a friend can have a really fun time taking on the challenges. Casual players may have a difficult time with some of the puzzles. If you’re like me, you don’t want to skip a level, you want to conquer it. This means you’ll likely end up playing the same level over and over again trying to figure out how to complete it. The difficulty spikes can be very brutal. Still, for ten dollars on Steam, if you’re looking for a good challenge with a simple concept, A Virus Named TOM may be just the game for you.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.