THOTH (PC) Review

By Thom Compton 18.12.2016

Review for THOTH on PC

It wouldn't be much of a secret to say shooters tend to be a little similar. Drop a ship into space, or onto an alien world, and watch it mow down, or get mowed down, while attempting to thwart the enemy threat. Variation on the formula has come and gone, but the core is the same. There's nothing wrong with that, though; the fan base is excited to see those little tweaks. THOTH is not one of those little tweaks. THOTH is the anti-shooter many have waited for. They just didn't know it.

THOTH, for all it accomplishes, is a surprisingly primitive game. The player moves around the screen, dodging enemies and blowing them to bits. 'Bits' might be a strong word, though, as the enemies actually seem to collapse into themselves. Each level is presented as a condensed miniature battle, meaning levels could last as long as a few seconds. This serves to amplify the tension, as things don't just move quickly when you're killing enemies at break neck speeds. They also move relentlessly fast when you're dying.

Part of what makes THOTH so distinct, is that it doesn't bother with frills like tutorials or even a deep menu. You turn it on, select the stages you want to play, and go. Everything is learned on the fly, and it adds to its almost, exploitation-esque feel. This is raw gameplay, so those who like a little presentation with their shmups are advised to look elsewhere.

Screenshot for THOTH on PC

That's not to say this game is not beautiful, because in its own nihilistic way, it's absolutely gorgeous. The great thing about video games is that their worlds are often so distinct, that the beauty is absolutely dependent on what the universe looks like in itself. THOTH takes the path of a beautiful, yet minimalist, multicolored nightmare. In film, many directors will put the most horrifying imagery they can think of in scenes that have the brightest colors, to contrast the violence. THOTH is the video game equivalent of that, more than any in recent memory, perhaps with the exception of Hotline Miami.

For all the supposed violence though, all of the fear and chaos seems to rest solely in the player's mind. There's no blood, and no gore, just tension that feels like the snapping of piano wire, and because of the speed things happen, it gives it an almost sickening quality. But the real magic in this little shoot 'em up comes from one mechanic that completely challenges everything the genre stands for. The second you kill an enemy, they become more deadly.

Screenshot for THOTH on PC

Once the enemy collapses into themselves, they leave behind a negative husk of what they once were. This husk then becomes more aggressive, chasing the player down with a vengeance. This even effects co-op partners, whose instant death now brings about a specter that hunts you down for the crime of letting them die. If it sounds like it might not be that big of deal, don't be fooled. Running away from the carcasses of fallen enemies is absolutely genius, providing that last little bit of stress inducing tension to make THOTH feel like a shadow creeping up behind you at even the slightest hint of success.

Despite the excellent use of chaos to keep the player on edge, it is all of the things that make THOTH distinct that also hold it back from greatness. The lack of any real instruction might increase the sense of panic, but it also makes the game feel cheap from time to time, especially in the early hours. The co-op really just makes everything harder, unless you and your partner are both incredibly good.

Screenshot for THOTH on PC

Some of the deaths, even after grasping it all, feel unwarranted, as you sneak past an enemy, only for it to circle back around and kill you, as they don't seem to follow any clear-cut path. It's hard to tell if THOTH is interested in you liking it, as, for all the stress it induces, there's a feeling of apathy. Not in the design, but in the interaction. It doesn't care if you make it to the next set of levels, and finally get to save, which is often a bit too far apart.

Even worse than having to repeat the same sections of levels over and over again, is that dying isn't even something that's explains very well. In short, you just tap the space bar to start up again, but it seems odd in a game that is trying to build tension that it would leave you to stare at your final resting place without any indication as how to try again. THOTH really suffers from its own apathy, and while many people will see the aforementioned issues as minor at best, they create a perfect storm that will cause many others to turn around at the gate. It really will depend on the player whether this lack of hand-holding is a blessing or a curse, but it shouldn't be overlooked.

Screenshot for THOTH on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

THOTH seems almost upset you've come to see what lies in its depths. While it excels at creating tension and feelings of uneasiness, it occasionally feels like it was left unfinished on purpose, like it was meant to make you feel abandoned upon. This may be enough to turn away a lot of players, but still it's hard to match the feeling of dread as an empty vessel of your former foe hunts you down faster and harder than before. Non-shmups fans should pass by this gem, but be forewarned, because it seems at times, THOTH can't wait to see you fail.

Developer

Carlsen Games

Publisher

Double Fine Presents

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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