Gone Home, but in space


Fullbright Company's exploration adventure game, Tacoma, free this week


The space station Tacoma, from the game of the same name. 
When I taught a game documentation class as an adjunct at Shawnee State, one of the things I tried to get my students to understand was the way video games have changed over the last 40 years. Many of us older gamers remember the games on our Atari and Nintendo systems as being extremely difficult. There was a time when I thought that was just me being a kid, but going back and attempting to play those games confirmed that – nope – it wasn't just me being a kid. Those games are insanely difficult! 
There is a reason for this. The developers of those early home console games were coming at game design from a completely different angle than many modern game designers. When they started developing games, the market was made up of arcade machines. Machines that the proprietors of those arcades wanted you to keep pumping quarters into. What's the best way to keep a kid dropping his coins into the slot? Make the game progressively harder and impossible to "beat." Many games didn't even have endings like modern games do. Instead they just kept adding enemies, that kept moving faster, until the player was eventually overwhelmed – and out of quarters. 
Fast-forward a couple of decades and not only could games be "beaten" but they had clear endings and narrative arcs. They weren't always deep and complex stories, but they were stories. 
Today games have undeniably crossed the threshold from digital distraction to art, and I would argue that some of the most compelling stories being told today are in the medium of gaming. All of that brings us to Tacoma, the  T for Teen rated offering from game studio The Fullbright Company that is one of this coming week's free game offerings from the Epic game store
Tacoma, like Fullbright's break out offering, Gone Home, isn't an action packed shooter. It's not a puzzle platformer that has you attempting impossible jumps across yawning chasms or moving blocks around to open a door. Instead, like it's predecessor, it's an adventure exploration game. But where Gone Home had you exploring your childhood home for clues to discover what happened to your family, Tacoma has you exploring the eponymous space station to discover what happened to the missing crew. Along the way you can also discover the crews relationships to one another, what was important to them, and what happened to them all. While the character the player controls doesn't fight, kill, or maim anyone, some of the situations they discover may not be appropriate for (or very interesting to) younger players. But for older kids or adults who want to spend two to five hours immersed in a story, and diving as deep or as shallow into the lives of the previous tenants of the space station Tacoma as they like, the Epic Store's next free offering is worth your time. 
For those looking for a more traditional game experience, the E 10+ (for Everyone age ten and up) Next Up Hero offers a variety of customizable heroes the player can choose to fight enemies in this fun little dungeon crawler RPG. The E 10+ rating also makes it more suited to families with younger children. 
Both games are available for free from the Epic Game store beginning Thursday.
If you act quickly you can also still snag this week's free offering, Torchlight II, before it expires on Thursday. Torchlight II is also a dungeon crawler RPG, rated T for Teen, and featuring both online and LAN co-op play options in addition to a single player campaign.  

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

(NOTE: You might notice that new e-mail address above. I'm still taking mail at the jeremy@latetothegames.com address too. Feel free to email at that address for most things blog related. These free game articles, though, are also now running in print form, under the Late to the Game(s) banner, in our newest endeavor, The Carter County Times. This is a small regional newspaper, so it probably won't be of interest to most of you, unless you happen to live in eastern Kentucky. But it's one of the reasons that updates to this blog have lagged over the past six weeks. My hope is that by focusing on a print version of these articles I can motivate myself to not only continue posting game reviews and other game related content on a semi-regular basis over here, but also lure some readers from that website – which has gotten some amazing traffic – over to the blog as well. When I worked for EA they would have called that synergy, or networking, or some other business jargon term. I just call it being lazy and recycling content, but let's be honest, that has been a theme here since the beginning. The only real difference is that a lot of the other content was no longer available online, if it ever was in the first place. So, there it is. If you run a print paper and you are interested in syndicating this content for your audience as well, drop me a line at either email address and let's talk details. -- Jeremy)  

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