By: Matthew Striplen
I have never sworn so loudly and creatively at cubes before playing Thoth. Stupid cubes. If you’re not sure why I hate cubes as much as I do, a five-minute play session of Thoth will teach you to fear and hate the cubes. From the developer of 140 comes one of the best and most difficult shooters in years.
Thoth bears some similarities to the Geometry Wars series and, as such, also features a twin-stick control layout. However, if you don’t have access to an external controller, mouse and WASD have also been implemented. The twin-stick layout is much smoother than the keyboard, as it provides a greater degree of precision, but the keyboard still works well. Regardless of method, the controls are tight.
Thoth adheres to a similarly minimalistic graphical style to 140. Only brightly colored geometric shapes fill the screen, as to not distract the player from the intense action. Although the level design is simplistic, it remains visually striking.
The sheer vividness of the colors is enough to keep player’s eyes happy. Also, the color scheme of the level changes after each checkpoint, which is a nice touch.
Sound-wise, Thoth is a bit odd. There isn’t exactly music per se, but noises are abundant. The enemies emit strange metallic cries every so often, and the hum of the player’s guns is ubiquitous. Aside from these noises, much of the game is nearly silent. More traditional music would’ve been appreciated in this section.
If you’ve played top-down shooters before, you should know how hectic they get. However, nothing will prepare you for Thoth‘s brutal and unforgiving gameplay. The game is broken up into levels that place the player, a white circle, in a space with cube- or other prism-shaped enemies. Players must shoot all the prisms to proceed to the next level. Sounds simple, right?
Wrong. Although the prisms may appear as two-dimensional squares at first, they’ll soon rotate to show their true three-dimensional nature. This means that the square will appear to change shape as it pursues the player.
Instead of being destroyed and disappearing, like in most shooters, the prisms instead lose their color and continue to attack the player. In fact, the colorless prisms become even more dangerous thanks to their increased speed and other possible activated effects.
Depending on the markings on the prism, it may launch smaller prisms at high speed, or toggle the effects of other environmental hazards. The most interesting activated effect involves warping the player around the arena after depleting a prism’s color.
To make things even more difficult, the player cannot receive any damage lest they be returned to the last checkpoint. Checkpoints come every four levels, but you’ll definitely be wishing for more.
Thoth‘s difficultly is extremely high and completing a single stage will make all but the most seasoned gamers sweat. The gameplay is challenging enough by itself, but the unforgiving system of being returned to the checkpoint makes it even tougher.
Although Thoth is undoubtedly an innovative and well-crafted game, its sheer difficultly alienates players who are not as experienced with video games or the genre — even as a seasoned gamer, I rage-quit more than just a few times. The mechanic of being forced to return to the last checkpoint is easily the most frustrating part.
One of Thoth‘s best attributes is its local multiplayer. Gamers can plug in two external controllers, or have one player use the keyboard while the other uses the controller. The basic mechanics of the game remain the same, but with one major addition.
Here, the first player to die in any level becomes an empty shell like the destroyed prisms. The defeated player then loses control over their circle and is forced to pursue the survivor. Having another player starts as a blessing, but it often ends up as a curse.
Thoth breathes new life into the top-down shooter genre with a simple aesthetic design that masks the pulse-pounding difficulty. Although it’s rewarding to complete, less experienced gamers may be overwhelmed by Thoth‘s unforgiving nature.