Platforms PSVR
Developer Secret Sorcery
Publisher Secret Sorcery
Release Date October 25, 2016

Review code provided

Tethered revives the God game genre from a new perspective. Sitting in your usual position high above a colony of Peeps, whose safety and general wellbeing fall directly under your care, you need to manage a series of small, floating islands that these adorable little creatures call home. By day, you’ll need to get them working the various resources scattered around their tiny island paradises. By night, you must ensure their safety from monsters that are looking to devour said resources and kill any Peeps standing in their way.

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The ultimate aim is to collect spirit energy to fully charge a totem in each level, of which there are thirteen in total. Everything you do in the game will release spirit energy for you to gobble up – harvesting resources, constructing new buildings, defeating monsters and more. All of it works towards a single goal. Keeping your ever growing army of Peeps working and, more importantly, occupied is how you’ll manage this.

Tethered rebuilds the God game from the ground up around virtual reality. You’re still looking down on your subjects and their land, but now thanks to the power of this new technology you’re perched on a cloud, actually looking down on them. You can switch your view by teleporting from cloud to cloud to get different vantage points around the many different levels your Peeps will call home as you progress.

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You control their actions through the tethering mechanic that the game gets its name from. Peeps, you see, completely lack any direction and need constant management in order to be full and productive members of society. To guide them towards a task, you need to look at them, hold down the X button and then drag a tether to whatever it is you want them to do. Fail to keep a Peep occupied and they’ll slowly wander to the edge of their floating island home and give you a little wave before plunging to their death. Brutal.

Luckily, there’s a lot for them to do. Each level sees you starting from scratch on a new island, usually with just one or two Peeps. As you work towards collecting spirit energy and building a thriving colony, eggs will descend from the heavens that will need to be hatched, giving your population a boost in the process. Everything that you need doing on the island must be done by one of the little guys.

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There are a ton of different resources for you to harvest: wood, stone, crystal, food and ore. Each of these are stored at smaller totems and act as your currency to constructing buildings to help you along in the game. There a bunch of different buildings that you’d expect to find in a God game such as this and each one will grant you different bonuses to help you achieve your goals. A barracks, for example, will allow you to train two of your Peeps as warriors, granting them extra health and damage for fighting off the nasties that will begin invading come nightfall.

Buildings are also upgradeable, giving you access to even more options further into your game. The number of strategic options that the game presents you with are vast and varied. There are weather effects that you can use to your advantage to regrow specific resources. You can even combine two weather effects to create a brand new one, such as a tornado that will instantly boost a Peep to its destination.

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Nighttime brings with it a new element to your experience. As day slowly turns to darkness the mood switches from a happy, joyous one to something decidedly more sinister. The world doesn’t look quite as lovely, the music switches subtly and disgusting slug-like creatures start to slither into view from every conceivable angle. It’s here that you’ll need to direct your Peeps to fight for their very survival. During later levels these nighttime adventures can get pretty tough, making you all the more thankful when the sun comes back up and you can start preparing for the next night.

As are the number of Peeps you’ll ultimately have to micromanage during each of the game’s levels. As more eggs are gifted to you from on high, your population will continue to grow. While Tethered is by and large a fairly relaxing time when your population is fairly low, the more Peeps you have in your colony the more micromanagement you’ll need to do. Peeps don’t have any mind of their own whatsoever, beyond fighting back against an enemy that attacks them first.

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This becomes a bit of a pain as resources become low. The amount of resources you’re able to collect isn’t the issue, there are usually a few different nodes for each type. The trouble comes when a resource has been mined dry, leaving your Peep standing about with nothing to do. If you don’t catch onto this situation quickly then you’ll end up with a jumper on your hands, and when there are a dozen or more of the little blighters running around on screen it can be easy to miss one who’s essentially standing about twiddling his thumbs.

Combat also becomes a pain in this regard as a Peep who is attacked will forget whatever it was they were doing beforehand. This can be compounded by some slight control issues when your population reaches double digits. Because the camera is your head and the cursor is whatever you’re looking at, and due to the island getting crowded towards the endgame of each level, it becomes quite easy to accidentally select the wrong floppy-eared worker.

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While this isn’t a massive issue, or game-breaking in any way, it invariably results in you selecting the wrong Peep regularly. I’d end up routinely sending a farmer to fight off a slug or a warrior to start mining stone, and it can be a hassle to sort everyone back into their optimal roles again when there are a dozen or more of the buggers plodding along the screen at any given moment.

While these are issues that hamper the game somewhat, they don’t take too much away from what is an otherwise immersive and highly engrossing experience. I kept losing hours at a time to this charming little game thanks to its addictive gameplay loop. Managing the Peeps and directing them around the island is engrossing, helped enormously by a beautiful art style that shows off these lush, paradise-like islands.

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It probably also helps that the Peeps themselves are so adorable they melt your insides. I could seriously sit and watch them potter about for hours without getting bored. Whether they’re ferrying wood back to the totems, perched atop an egg warming it to be hatched or staring up at you longingly, wondering if you still love them any more, there’s a lot of charm to the little guys, and it’s absurdly easy to fall in love with them.


Summary

Tethered is a great showcase for bringing the God game to a whole new medium, and a cracking game in its own right. Perched atop the clouds that hang above your little island paradises brings a whole new level of immersion to this type of game, and the Peeps will very quickly win you over with an overabundance of cutesy charm. Gameplay is simple but built on very solid foundations, with the titular tethering allowing you to quickly direct your Peeps around, although managing them can be become a bit of a hassle as their numbers grow. Still, there’s something incredibly engrossing about building up these colonies and it’s very easy to loose chunks of time playing God to this bunch of wide-eyed, floppy eared dimwits.

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