A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tacoma is a downloadable first-person narrative adventure game set on an abandoned space station. Aside from an accidental explosion that injures two people, there's no violence. Players spend their time examining the station for clues to piece together what happened to its crew. During their exploration, players will encounter an instance of partial nudity -- a classical-style painting that depicts a naked breast -- and hear recordings of crew members who aren't averse to using strong language, including "f--k." There are also sealed and empty bags of wine around the station that can be picked up and examined. The crew -- a diverse cast made up of varying religions, nationalities, genders, skin tones, and sexual orientations -- behave nobly and with good intentions, often helping and soothing each other in the face of disaster.
What's it about?
Made by the same studio that delivered 2013's acclaimed Gone Home, TACOMA retains and pulls that game's proven first-person narrative adventure formula into the future. Set entirely aboard a small and abandoned lunar exchange station near the end of the 21st century, it puts players in the space suit of a contractor hired to salvage an AI core. Along the way, players gradually learn what happened to the station's crew, a group of six people who scrambled to survive following a disaster. There's no combat and hardly any puzzles beyond the need to occasionally search for a code to unlock a door or a key to open a closet. Instead, players are simply tasked to investigate each section of the station and look for clues -- notes, personal objects, and holographic recordings of events related to the disaster -- that explain what happened. It's an interactive story filled with quirky personalities and more than a couple of twists and turns that shouldn't take most players more than three or four hours to complete.
Is it any good?
While the Fullbright Company's second game doesn't set a new bar for first-person narrative adventures, it's still a very compelling play. Tacoma's chief strength lies in its environments, which are rich with details -- scraps of paper, computer terminal messages, boxes with keepsakes -- that beg to be found and examined to reveal more about the station and its crew. What's more, the future the developers have imagined is fascinating, speculating on such things as an Amazon university, the breakup of certain parts of the U.S., and powerful corporations that record and retain ownership of your experiences while on their property via augmented reality technology. It's this very technology that players exploit when reviewing recorded holograms: playing, pausing, fast-forwarding, and rewinding three-dimensional images that depict crew interactions and key events on the station.
The only place Tacoma falters slightly is in character development. The station's crew is an interesting bunch, each with his or her own background and collection of personal problems. But the game is so short that players aren't quite given enough time to bond with any of them. You'll probably like them and wish them the best, but they fall just short of being people you truly care about, who feel like friends. If it had been possible to dive a little deeper into their personal lives, this problem may have been solved. But the main plot eventually comes together in a clever and rewarding fashion, neatly tying together lots of little threads near the very end that will likely leave most players feeling quite satisfied by the time it's all over.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Tacoma is a short game that can be finished in a single sitting, but it can also be broken into multiple sessions easily. Which way would you prefer to play?
Talk about games that eschew violence for storytelling. Tacoma has no traditional action and hardly even any puzzles, but do you think games can be fun if all players do is explore and discover a story?
- Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: The Fullbright Company
- Release date: August 2, 2017
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Friendship, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.