Sunday, December 16

Review: MIND - Path to Thalamus [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While beautiful and contemplative journeys that involve some degree of puzzle solving aren’t necessarily a traditional genre in themselves there has been an interesting run of them this year. While their style and format haven’t been at all the same there always seems to be a common thread of puzzle solving of some sort and visuals that capture the imagination. The newest arrival running with this thread is MIND: Path to Thalamus, and though it has the incredible visual aspect nailed unfortunately its cohesion and the consistency of its puzzles is inconsistent at best.


Playing out as a sort of walking simulator set in a series of completely different and often quite surreal landscapes. There’s no question that visually the game has things to show you that you’ve never experienced, and that does help to push down some of the concerns in other areas if you appreciate great visuals. There’s certainly a story here as well to go with the journey, filled with regret but moving slowly towards resolution as you progress… though the voice acting can be a bit gratingly overwrought at times.


I think aside from the fact that there’s no way to run, forcing a very plodding pace, my greatest qualm with the game is the inconsistency of its “puzzles”. This is a very trial-and-error experience, not so much following a structure where you see a problem and are looking for its solution as you stumble around and hope you satisfy what the game is looking for. You’ll most often be placed in an environment, walk around to find the only things you can act on (usually an orb you can pick up is involved), and then struggle to determine what you’re supposed to do from there.


While this may be compelling to some people I tend to find it a bit tedious and a tactic to pad length through ambiguity but that’s me. Issues where I had to reset the level because the orb got stuck in the environment somewhere also popped up once in a while and were frustrating. One great feature is the fact that you’re able to jump into any chapter you like without unlocking the previous ones so if you happen to get stuck you can choose to jump ahead.


For people who enjoyed the classic Myst and games like it (full disclosure, I found them tedious) MIND has a lot in common with those, especially on a visual level. Some of the puzzles in that series were a bit on the obtuse side as well, though I’d say MIND may be a bit more guilty in that area overall. If you don’t mind the slow pace and lack of direction, and just like to stare in wonder at things you’ve never seen before, MIND does deliver in that area. It just lacks the cohesion and strength of play some other titles like it on Switch have been able to deliver more effectively.

Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • Absolutely stunning visuals
  • Overall, a story of self-reflection
  • If you find yourself frustrated or stuck you can always skip ahead

Cons:
  • Quite a lot of ambiguity when it comes to many puzzles, feeling more like trial and error than really solving things
  • The voice acting can be a bit much
  • Ran into some instances where the orb needed to solve the puzzle got stuck in the environment and had to reset