I zip up my military-grade hazmat suit, slap a fresh clip into my submachine gun, and strap a knapsack full of Molotov cocktails onto my back. As I pass through the gates into the irradiated zone, I can already hear the inhuman growls of the shambling horrors that have overrun the place. I see movement in the distance and identify a tall, pale shape approaching. It’s one of those skinny, armless monstrosities with a head that’s all mouth. I’ve seen one unhinge its jaw and bite a man in half. Behind it, I see a swarm of buzzing spider-flies, each one nearly the size of my head. That means one of the hulking hives-with-legs can’t be far behind. I take a moment to reflect on the promise of cheap, clean energy. Of course, it turned out they were really making biological weapons in here. Was it worth all of this? The Tomsk-7 compound has become Hell on Earth. I might never be able to escape this place, but at least I can try to keep the monsters contained within it. Sighing, I lift my gun to my shoulder and take aim at the toothy grin that dominates an otherwise blank face. “Don’t waste ammo,” I tell myself. “You gotta hold out ’til the chopper gets here.” But that’s when I hear something behind me. It’s big, it’s fast, and it’s happy to see me. I turn around to greet it, my finger already squeezing the trigger…
Daniel Mercier, AKA Red Tree Games, first caught my attention with his excellent freeware puzzle-platformer Burn Pixel Wood. But that’s Daniel’s second game; his first game was released commercially in January of 2013 and flew so low under the radar that I only recently learned of its existence (not that I’m omniscient, but I do make it my business to at least be aware of as many indie game releases as humanly possible). That game, of course, is Call of Tomsk-7, and it turns out that I like it very much.
Call of Tomsk-7 is a 2-D, 3rd-person, single-player, arena-based survival-horror-shooter. The setting and title of Call of Tomsk-7 are reminiscent of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. The game’s name also evokes Call of Cthulhu, which hints that the monsters of Tomsk perhaps have a supernatural component. The only real goal in the game is to survive long enough that you might have a chance of being rescued. But you earn points by killing monsters, and points unlock better weapons (and hats, which confer different advantages), and better weapons help you survive longer… So, the game does have an ending (actually, 2 endings, as far as I can tell), but it’s also about getting a high score and unlocking power-ups.
The basic gameplay is walking to the left or right (with the A and D keys) and shooting things (using the mouse to aim and a left click to fire). Different guns have different clip sizes, and you have to press R to reload when you run out of bullets. Your supply of ammo is limited, and the only way to restock is by picking up the boxes periodically dropped by a helicopter. Different monster types behave differently, and may increase their aggression as you damage them. They are also generally more susceptible to head shots, so you can’t just blast away blindly without wasting ammo or losing your life. Giant, spider-eyed flies will land on your head and attack, but you can repeatedly tap E to swat them. You also have a variety of secondary weapons to use (by right clicking), including smoke bombs, land mines, and Molotov cocktails. These can be real lifesavers, and each is best suited to a different situation.
Tomsk-7 features a wonderful, handmade-looking art style that’s both creepy and cartoony. As you walk along the smallish, arena-like level, a beautiful and impressionistic backdrop scrolls by. It looks painted and its edges appear to curve as they leave the screen, giving the play area a feeling of roundness. Set atop this flowing background, all of the game’s objects–the monsters, the weapons, the player avatar, etc.–are flat, stylized sprites with thick black outlines. It looks a bit like someone drew on an oil painting with pen, ink, and markers. The effect of the juxtaposition is striking, eerie, and sets the tone for the surreal, violent action of the game.
As you can see from the screenshots, Call of Tomsk-7 is rather gory. You can be bitten in half, reduced to a pair of legs with a bit of spine jutting out. You can have the top of your skull chewed away by giant bugs, exposing your brain. You can even live through it, though your legs will no longer function–but you can still stand and shoot. You can also inflict gruesome damage on monsters, whose heads explode in gouts of blood (or giant flies), and whose bodies melt away into puddles of putrid bio-slush when they die.
Call of Tomsk-7 was recently updated to version 1.5, which adds a Challenge Mode and a Hard Mode, as well as a new weapon. To celebrate the upgrade, the developer has put the game on sale for 50% off its normal price (from $3.99 to $1.49). If you like twisted horror action, I suggest you snap this game up in a hurry!
Buy Call of Tomsk-7 on Desura, NOW ON SALE FOR $1.49: http://www.desura.com/games/call-of-tomsk-7
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Hack (@indiegamehunt), besides writing and editing for this very site, is a contributing editor at indiegames.com and at Game Jolt. He infrequently updates his blogs at indiegamehunt.tumblr.com and expensiveindiegames.tumblr.com. He also (unfortunately) has to keep a boring day job. But despite all of this, most of his time is happily dedicated to co-parenting his precocious 2-year old daughter.