Whether or not you should pick up A Virus Named TOM is a no-brainer for Vita owners who are PlayStation Plus subscribers – the game is free for users of the service this month. For others, our review might help you make up your mind.
An action puzzler at heart, A Virus Named TOM actually has a background story and story campaign attached to it. The story is a cartoonesque sci-fi one, with echoes of the present interwoven with it. At some point in the future, humans become incredibly dependant on technology and gadgets for everyday life, and a lot of these inventions in the game sprang from the brain of inventor Dr. X (no, not that one). When his company MegaTech fires him, he vows to take revenge by taking down the technology that people depend on by unleashing a virus. A virus called TOM – a virus you control.
It’s a story that adds character to an otherwise fairly generic puzzle game – and a fun story because elements of this sci-fi scenario are quite familiar when you look around you today. The actual puzzle game that ties everything together is somewhat similar to many other games we’ve seen during the past 25 years or so. One of the oldest ones I remember is Pipe Mania (also called Pipe Dream), in which you had to connect a series of pipe pieces by rotating and placing them in such a way that liquid could run through them. Replace sewer piper with circuit boards and a current that has to run over it and you’ve got the general idea.
Rotating is done by moving along the edges of tiles while holding the X button – ‘dragging’ the tile along so it rotates. The game’s not strictly a puzzler though, because quick responses and agility are often more important than planning. This is because the enemy, Dr. X’s former employer, is trying to stop you. Drones and obstacles are out to make things harder for you, and dodging them is crucial in the more hectic stages of the game. You’re also fighting a time limit, which becomes a bigger issue the further you progress.
Luckily, you can fight back through some abilities that Dr. X adds to your arsenal as you move through the levels – allowing you to lay down ‘traps’ for the drones, for instance. This doesn’t just add diversity to the gameplay, it also keeps the game from becoming an endless series of the same type of level.
A Virus Named TOM isn’t terribly original when it comes to how its levels play out – it’s a small twist on a familiar formula. The storyline adds a bit of charm to the game and if you enjoy similar titles then you’re certain to enjoy this one as well. It may be a tad generic and a too action-oriented for hardcore puzzle fans, but you shouldn’t miss out if you have PlayStation Plus and it comes at a budget price for everyone else.