I had a real problem writing this review. Not because it was especially difficult to determine whether or not this game is worth your time and money (It is, so I’ll save you time now, and it’s not even that expensive.), but more because I kept booting the game up to take another look at it and then I’d be pretty much lost for another couple of hours. So there’s a lot to say for the appeal of A Virus Named TOM, if nothing else, in that it basically has me wanting to boot it up right now instead of finishing this sentence.
The game itself is fairly straightforward. A scientist, after being fired by the company that he created a bunch of great inventions for, decides that he will create a virus (named TOM) and gain his revenge on that company by wreaking havoc. The game itself consists of running across grids in order to arrange circuits so that you (TOM, the virus) can take over each circuit in whatever device until you spread yourself through that device and cause it to go haywire, the results of which you get to watch in quick animated cutscenes.
Of course, the company that your creator once worked for isn’t just going to sit back and allow this to happen. Obviously you’re going to have to deal with extra obstacles, and they are going to involve either obscuring which way a circuit is facing or sending antiviruses after you (with a few more tweaks on these obstacles the further you get in). But TOM is hardly defenseless, as you’ll eventually get glitches, which can freeze an antivirus in place and if you’re lucky, cause a collision that will clear the antiviruses — at least for a little bit.
Probably the most compelling thing about A Virus Named TOM is that it brilliantly combines the need for quick, twitchy gameplay with puzzling in a package that — while some of the levels are maddeningly difficult — never gets so difficult that you, for example, throw your controller or break your keyboard in a fit of rage. (I have never done this although I think I came pretty close to breaking a friend’s Genesis controller playing Aladdin once.). Levels are timed, too — the faster you complete them, the higher your score — so there’s even more incentive to figure out the puzzles quickly.
I played with a keyboard because I don’t have a controller hooked up to my computer and found that the controls are indeed simple and easy to pick up. If you do happen to have a controller, I cannot suggest enough that you find a friend to come over and play with you. It’s a hell of a lot of fun (and you can even choose to play head-to-head instead of cooperatively, which is a lot of fun in and of itself).
Most importantly, A Virus Named TOM‘s puzzles hit the sweet spot between rewarding and difficult. The feeling of accomplishment that comes from seeing the solution to a puzzle and being able to move quickly enough to accomplish it is immense, especially when you manage to get a gold medal (because of course there are medals). It’s a game that you can put a few minutes into (the individual levels do not take very long) or that you can sit and burn through until you realize that you should probably have gone to bed about an hour ago. Well worth your time and money.