We’re seeing a lot of fancy AAA titles coming out lately. They’re out there ready to push your fancy, expensive hardware to its limits, crushing your PC unless you’ve got the nicest gear around. What if you don’t, though? Do games still exist for someone gaming on a potato? You can breathe easy knowing that there are, and in this case it’s called THOTH; it’s a twin-stick shooter from the lead puzzle designer on games like Inside and Limbo.
THOTH isn’t the most complicated game by any means. You’re a dot. Push the left stick to move, push the right stick to fire bullets, avoid touching anything dangerous because you die in a single hit, cry if you don’t have a gamepad since the game isn’t going to work without one. You can use those bullets that you’re firing to take out intimidating foes like diamonds, triangles and circles. Defeating a foe reduces them to blank space, which still moves and can still kill you; defeating every foe on a map moves you along to the next map. Finish enough maps lets you face a boss, which will shift the game’s color scheme and serve as a checkpoint if you win, but if you die at any point you’re sent back to the beginning of that set of levels.
Thoth mixes things up by introducing little twists into that formula. Early stages, for instance, are just a matter of blasting away at foes while staying away from them long enough to clear out the entire level. Later enemies will respond to being defeated by launching a projectile right back at you – you’re bound to get caught by this one at least once. Later still, defeating enemies will toggle dangerous fences that divide the level, so you’ll have to time when to finish off a baddie.
Even later, enemies will have chains connecting them that can kill you, so you’ll have to dodge those as well. The constant evolution of Thoth’s gameplay keeps the game feeling fresh and provides a sense of strategy to the game’s action, and that’s saying nothing about the bosses, which take the concepts that Thoth is trying to teach you and put them to the test.
As for the game’s presentation, it sticks with the old indie games standby of minimalism; you can’t catch heat for a game that looks bad if you’re clearly not trying to make one that looks good, right? It’s a bunch of geometric shapes floating around shooting at each other. Not much else to say there. Sometimes the colors change and that’s pretty cool. The soundtrack is a sort of creepy ambient thumping deal that helps keep the game feeling tense, so kudos to that. Aside from that, the fact that the game requires a gamepad is a little baffling – sure, it’s the ideal control solution for this sort of thing, but how hard would it have been to add WASD/mouse-based controls?
THOTH is a simple game with simple goals: float around, shoot stuff, don’t die. It’s the sort of game that the indie games scene was built on, really, and it’s well made and enjoyable for what it is. Don’t expect to get a billion hours or infinite replay value out of THOTH, but it’s worth a look for shooter fans or anyone who might find its unusual aesthetic appealing.