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    The Talos Principle: Review

    OK, it’s bad. Fire-and-brimstone bad. Someone’s been climbing the tower put off limits by Elohim, the almighty megaphone in the sky who claims to be the supreme creator of this puzzling world. Cheekily chancing your arm will only get you so far before general warnings and enticements become specific. The commandment is clear, but the result is inevitable the truth is just too enticing to ignore.

    This, then, is testament to the power of The Talos Principle’s writing. There’s a god in heaven above, a tempter slithering in the gardens below, and a freewilled individual caught in the middle. Everyone knows how this plays out, and yet slowly, philosophical blog by diary scrap by rhetorical exchange, the draw of discovering what Elohim doesn’t want you to know becomes all-consuming. Yes, there are flashes when the multiple-choice responses are constricting, the delivery is overly arch and the pondering gets ponderous, but it’s hard to understate the craft in weaving a mystery that makes original sin tempting all over again. This is just the surface layer to a more human, more hopeful tale, but let it suffice to say that you won’t escape this 15-hour firstperson puzzler without mulling about something broader than the tests in its many chambers.

    Even if you give the optional parts of the yearningly ontological storyline a miss, the puzzles are a strong enough backbone to support the runtime, an elegant succession of arrangements that bend your mind and progress your understanding of a clutch of simple tools so that you can pick ever more spatially complex locks. You’ll redirect two colours of laser beam around apparently impossible corners with connectors to avoid one beam cutting the other. You’ll disrupt doors and patrolling mines with jammers. You’ll toy with cubes and fans to create floating platforms, or speedways to catch a timed window. Croteam offers one hint on entry, a little cryptic pun that’s just enough to get going, but a freeform structure allows you to skip any test in the three main worlds and return to it later. A few short hops of logic and faith are required, but Talos’s lack of handholding is ambitious and appreciated it’s hugely satisfying to figure these rooms out on your own.

    Then there are the stars required to unlock secrets, requiring inversions of thinking that treat the entire world as a puzzle chamber, adding a mind-boggling endgame on top of the hunt for tetrominoes. Not every layer of Talos finds its mark, but the discourse created by navigating them is a brain-taxing process to match the genre’s greats, one that frees you to poke at its loadbearing members and damn the consequences. Transgression has rarely felt so good.


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