A VIRUS NAMED TOM / Misfits Attic / PC
 
 
TOM is one of those games that's almost really great but makes one stupid design decision that sinks the whole thing.

It's an action-puzzle game in the lineage of Pipe Mania / Pipe Dream, where you have to actively rotate pipes around to re-route some flowing shiz on the fly. But in this case, you're a nanobot sent into circuitry to hack it by re-routing electricity. The game has kind of a Fallout / Jetsons retro-futuristic kitsch going and the setup is that some mad scientist gets fired from some Megacorp for making crazy, unprofitable projects. So he decides to take revenge by infecting all the Megacorp's products with his virus.
 


The first set of levels has you simply figuring out how to route everything from incoming power supplies so that all portions of the board are lit up. TOM only has so much power though, so you have a time limit to do each of these. Later levels have a variety of more complicated twists. Patrolling antivirus bots are introduced who will suck off some of your energy/time when you collide with them. Portions of the board remain hidden from view until you deliver power to them. And about midway through the second set of levels you get "glitches" that will freeze security bots in their path and destroy two of them (temporarily) if they collide. Some levels don't have power sources, so you'll have to supply power by causing an explosion with a special type of glowing green security bot.
 


The problem comes with the levels that combine a hidden board with having to create power by causing a green security bot to explode. To even get a brief glimpse at what you're working with, you have to lay your glitch trap and wait for the explosion. If that 3 second or so look at the board wasn't enough (which it usually isn't), you have to stand around and wait for the two security bots to respawn so you can cause another explosion. I'm already iffy on a puzzle game that hides its pieces from the player, but forcing you to waste time standing around doing nothing in between tiny peeks is just head-slappingly stupid design.

Outside of the peekaboo levels the game is really nicely polished and actually quite fun. Unfortunately the poorly designed levels are mandatory to proceed and are often the penultimate level in a chapter (meaning you can't use your limited quantity of "skip tokens" to bypass them.) When you hit one it just brings the whole game to a screeching, tedious halt.
 
 
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