A Virus Named TOM Review

Screenshot of A Virus Named TOM
A completed puzzle. If only they were all this easy.

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Misfits Attic
  • Publisher: Misfits Attic
  • Release Date: 2 August 2012
  • Time played: 12.7 hours

Oh, well you look at that? Another game that I managed to get off the "Humble Freedom Bundle"! Trust me, it's just a coincidence that I've managed to review so many games in the past couple of months that just happen to be part of this bundle (or at least I hope so).

I originally chose to play this game because I was on the lookout for games that: (a) had full controller support on Steam, (b) were family friendly and (c) had shared/split-screen multiplayer. Turns out that A Virus Named TOM ticks all these boxes which meant it was a game I could play on the Steam Link along with my wife and eldest daughter. I didn't really persevere with the single player campaign though until recently when Choona picked the game as one I should complete and review as part of my “Pile of Shame” Initiative.

I'm pleased to say that A Virus Named TOM gets the honour of the first game to be crossed off the list that is my Pile of Shame! So what's the game actually about?

Well, there are three game modes available: single player, co-op and versus modes. In single-player mode you play the role of a virus named TOM (I know, I can't believe it either); TOM is developed by a mad scientist in order to get revenge on the company that fired him called Megatech. TOM ends up infecting robot dogs, sidewalks, microwave-like devices and even the "City of Tomorrow" itself.

In terms of gameplay, A Virus Named TOM reminds me of the 1989 game Pipe Mania (aka Pipe Dream) in which you have to direct the flow of fluid through pipes for as long as possible; what makes the game challenging is that like Tetris new pieces in the queue are generated at random so sometimes you'll often be scrambling frantically to find a piece that connects with an existing pipe. While in A Virus Named TOM you won't need to worry so much about this mechanic (since all relevant pipes are already on the board) you'll still need to have your puzzle solving cap on as you turn the pieces around to ensure that the infection covers every single tile made available to you.

Co-op mode is similar to single player except you'll have 2-4 TOMs trying to solve the tweaked versions of the single player levels; Versus mode (or “Battle Mode”) is a weird mix of Capture the Flag and Bomberman as you try to secure as many squares on the board as you can, even if it means bombing other players to steal their squares.

What I like:

Decent number of levels

The game has over 50 levels in the single player campaign and just as many in the co-op mode so there's plenty of levels to try out here.

Well polished

I didn't encounter any serious bugs while playing the game, unless you count the enemy drones (which are shaped like bugs).

Groovy soundtrack

As described on the Steam page for this soundtrack, the music is

"inspired by the feel-good grooves of Daft Punk, sweeping melodies of Nobuo Uematsu, and 8-bit-funk classic Toejam and Earl."

It all melds together pretty well thanks to the efforts of Ian Hicks.

Family friendly couch co-op fun

If you're looking for a family-friendly game that you can play while sitting on the couch with a controller, A Virus Named TOM ticks this box. As mentioned before, the game supports both co-op and versus gameplay.

Steam achievements and trading cards

There are 47 Steam achievements to unlock and 10 Steam Trading Cards to collect.
The game is also integrated with Steam Leaderboards.

What I dislike:

Throwaway plot

Not that I'm really going to hold it against Misfits Attic, I mean you generally only play puzzle games for the puzzles, right? However, it must be said, the story about a mad scientist plotting his revenge is a cliché one.


Maybe I'm just no good at puzzle games (which is probably why you should never get me to review these kind of games) but I found the final two stages to be difficult especially when compared to the earlier stages. During the early stages of the game, I would just stumble across the solution, even for the levels I tried multiple times. However, towards the end of the game it took longer and longer to complete the levels and merely stumbling upon the answer seemed to be less effective, meaning you needed to use some foresight when completing the puzzle – or at least I thought. Unfortunately, trying to be smart about the puzzle was my downfall as you make decisions straight at the beginning about which way a piece should face so you can focus on others (i.e. eliminating variables or unknowns) – this can lead to dead-end scenarios (a bit like the old Sierra "Quest" games of yore) where you're so far down one path that you'll have no choice but to start all over again (in the case of A Virus Named TOM, thanks to time limits).

I'm also torn about the use of "skip tokens" in this game. You see, after completing a few levels you'll be awarded with these things called skip tokens that allow you to skip a puzzle altogether. At first, I was hesitant on using them as not only did it feel a bit like cheating when you used them but by using them you'd never discover the solution to the puzzle (so to some degree, it's actually worse than finding a walkthrough online). In the end, I just wanted to finish the game so I did end up using a couple of my skip tokens to finish the game – but I felt so dirty for using them, not to mention stupid, which leads me to believe this game is ultimately only for those that really love puzzle games.

Score – 6/10 (Okay)

A Virus Named TOM is not a bad game: it has a groovy soundtrack, a decent number of levels to play (single player, co-op and versus) and it's a great family friendly game to play on your Steam Link. However, it's for puzzle game aficionados only, especially ones who are into games like Pipe Mania (aka Pipe Dream).

Is the game worth $9.99 USD?: Yes, that's just about $13 AUD with current exchange rates. Provided you're into Pipe Dream style puzzles (especially if you have friends that are into them too) this game should be worth the money. Otherwise, don't bother if you only have a passing interest in puzzle games.

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[ LINK: Official A Virus Named TOM Website ]