Mind: Path to Thalamus by Carlos Coronado (2014)
Plunging deep into a subconscious plagued by regret, you explore the fantastical mind of a comatose father seeking his path to Thalamus.
While you may expect a game with the title Mind: Path to Thalamus to be an extremely cerebral adventure full of philosophic dialogue, breathtaking landscapes speak louder than words in this picturesque epic. It manages to envelope you in its simple yet atmospheric design at every turn. This is an especially redeeming quality when the actual storytelling comes off as dry, worsened by an inexperienced voice actor. I would normally not weigh this so heavily, but since the plot is driven solely by the father’s distraught thoughts and feelings, the monotone lines take away from an otherwise magnificent atmosphere.
Mind: Path to Thalamus could have been a completely voiceless game. The recurrent symbolism alone is strong enough to flesh out a story, as though looking through an elaborate series of paintings. I am infinitely curious to see what kind of game this would be if there was no narration to hold your hand, feeding you all of the metaphors and symbols. I feel that if a game such as this was left up the imagination of the player, the original intent would still be preserved, but even more imaginative ideas and commentary would spring to life. I appreciate the story that Carlos has crafted, despite the faults in its execution, but I can’t help but think a game this beautiful should have trusted in itself more and left the players searching for themselves.
Aside from the narration, brooding music punctuates an overbearingly silent world at the best of times. Without even footsteps to keep you company, ambient pulses and a doleful piano bring waves of untold emotions during epic reveals. I just wished there was more ambient transitional music for all of that time in between while walking or when solving puzzles. Traveling through an endless desert of water is stunning, but a more liberal soundtrack would have completed an otherwise immersive world.
What separates this game from one like Dear Esther is that the player interacts with the environment through puzzles. While most of them were quite simple drag and drop, there were a select few that truly made me feel rewarded after solving them. The ingenious puzzles involving calculated timing, neuron balls that activate certain effects (time, platforms, and portals), and some spatial thinking. The world constantly tries to trick you by hiding the correct path or certain pieces of the puzzle, which was frustrating at times when the goal was more about finding than solving.
The bottom line is this game is stunningly beautiful, where every new landscape deserves its own wallpaper. The soundtrack will mesmerize you, but will only do so a limited amount of times. The narration is weak due to the voice actor and the story begins to unravel upon itself towards the end. Mind does a lot of telling rather than showing, which is especially disheartening when the detailed imagery and stark symbolism could easily tell an unspoken story. Relief comes in the form of spatial puzzles that utilize inventive mechanics to progress, while also leading the player to explore its fantastical areas.
Take a step back, enjoy the view, challenge yourself with the puzzles. Drown out the narrator with your surroundings and see what kind of story unravels.
Read my notes on this game as I played through it.
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Music – 7.5/10
Visuals – 9.5/10
Flow – 7/10
Story – 6/10
Final Score – 7.5/10 (Well Done)