Mind: Path to Thalamus

Experience the beauty you can’t see with Carlos Coronado’s Mind: Path to Thalamus. This artistic first person puzzler uses the Unreal Engine to great effect to create attractive locations in an attempt to convey a ponderous narrative.

Mind: Path to Thalamus is essentially a button pressing puzzle game. Each level has areas that change the environment as long as you stand in them. The effects range from scattering fog clouds, nighttime falling, and turning back the clock of time. Because you want some of these effects to persist, or because the game requires you to mix these environments, you are provided with synapse spheres – blocks – to leave in these “button” areas to achieve that goal. The concept is simple and familiar, though the gimmick that sets Path to Thalamus apart is its lush setting and narrative.

The environments are pretty, but because of the first person perspective your vision is often obscured by the synapse spheres. This concealment is exasperated by the propensity of dark segments. A great portion of the game is either spent behind a webbed ball or stumbling through the blackness of caves or the deepness of the night, ultimately distracting from an otherwise well designed world.

The puzzles themselves are clever when they are at their best. However, even with changing challenges they started to fall into a repetitious pattern of “Find the Ball” and then “Find the Button” whenever you enter a new area. A lot of time is spent wandering and bumping into invisible walls. It gave a feeling that the game was intentionally padded rather than meticulously designed, even for a four hour title.

The story itself felt the same way. As you wander about, a narrator explains his past, and that’s about the only connection to the world and story that you get. The tale is about a storm chasing man who fell into a coma trying to save his daughter from a disaster he intentionally entered. In the dreams of his coma he must face his past and guilt, but the game never explains what a pleasant forest or quiet expansive field has to do with any of this. The game world and the story world are disjointed in a manner similar to random encounters in old JRPGs. An incoherent cacophony of visuals replaces meaningful symbolism resulting in a completely lost opportunity. And the game ends with a cringe worthy attempt at a twist – the kind that made me want to say “Let’s not go to Thalamus, it’s a silly place” as a tagline for this review.

Three years in the making, Mind: Path to Thalamus is a valiant effort on the part of Carlos Coronado. There are moments that impress, but the parts all add up to a mediocre story shoe-horned into a mediocre first person puzzler. I encourage the development team to keep it up, but I can’t really recommend this one as a must see.