Review: Tacoma

Tacoma is a first person story based video game. I downloaded a copy on Steam when it was on sale. It’s not too long a game – 10-20 hours tops – but it was enjoyable.

Being story-based the game play was fairly linear. You made your way from module to module in a set order as the game unlocked each area for you. The set-up and setting are:

The lunar transfer station Tacoma has experienced a critical life support failure and all crew have abandoned ship. You have been hired by the station’s corporate owners to retrieve any “black box” data from the station’s various computers and then retrieve the station’s AI wetware core.

As you progress through this mission you have the opportunity to view AR ship logs recorded at various times (from 12 months prior to 12 hours prior). In these recordings the crew of Tacoma (4 women, 2 men) are shown as slightly geometric figures, each colour coded so you know who is who. It seemed weird at first but I actually enjoyed it.

The recordings aren’t on screens, they’re full-body projections that are walking around the space around you, talking to each other. You can access various personal terminals and work stations, go through drawers, and look in closets. As you go you’ll find things that don’t add up, as well as details about the crew.

What I enjoyed most about the game, and what prompted me to write this review, was the diversity. You play a female character named  Amitjyoti (Amy) Ferrier, which is a huge step. First of all, you rarely see yourself but from what you do see, you’re dressed in practical clothing, and you’re not a “white” character. While the character has no speech or hearing impairments she interacts with the computer systems using sign language.

The crew is mostly female, including an African-American woman in charge of the station, an East Indian female medical doctor, and two Caucasian women working as the mechanical engineer (she reminds me of Pam from Archer and they call her Bert, short for Roberta) and the network technician (who is Russian and a bit of a bitch by the way, but you get to love her, I swear)

The two men are an Asian botanist (I do apologize, I am not familiar with the Asian nationalities so I can’t be more specific) and a Caucasian HR director (very British).

On top of the obvious national diversity, there are three couples mentioned in the game. First, the station director and the HR director are having a fling . Second, Bert and Nat (the mechanical engineer and the network tech) are married. Third, the Botanist has a husband and an 18 year old son back on Earth. So there is that diversity as well.

The story is part human-interest, part corporate thriller. The more time you spend examining papers and terminals, the more sense everything starts to make.

The graphics were simple in texture but the environment was detailed – lots of papers and pens and lights and bits and bobs everywhere. The AI, ODIN, whom you meet in the AR recordings, is serious but seems to care about the crew of his station. The interactions between crew members were interesting and realistic without the boring grind of “hey how are you?” “fine, how are you?” over and over again.

The ending was a bit of a jump and the story was short, but otherwise this game was a lot of fun to play and visually appealing. I give this a 4 out of 5.

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Review: No Fire Escape in Hell

No Fire Escape in Hell is part romantic comedy, part comedy of errors, written by Kim Cayer.

I first read this book in the summer of 2016 but we just finished reading it with the Steinbach and Area book club so I thought I would do a review.

The story has a first person female narrator and the character is quite amusing. This isn’t really my type of book but the character was entertaining enough that I finished reading. I liked her daughter as well.

What else I liked was the middle and ending of the book. She’s basically living out of her car and everything goes wrong, constantly, while she struggles to make things go right. The events of the book are interesting, nothing repetitive or annoying. Ends on a decent note.

What I didn’t like was the beginning. I found there were a few things that hurt the believability of the story, and the initial incident that gets her living in her car in the first place, well I just didn’t believe it. I found myself sitting there going “why didn’t she just -” and coming up with a half dozen other things she could have done that would have been more reasonable and really, still in character. I think the set-up could have been thought out better. There were also a few times that I thought “really? is she that naive?”

The other readers at book club had trouble getting through this story. They found it slow and it wasn’t really anyone’s “thing”.

If you enjoy fun, light, romantic comedies, give this book a try. If not, then I’d avoid it. Personally, I give it a 2 out of 5 stars.