words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Carlsen Games for PC and Mac, originally released in 2016.
Thoth (a.k.a. THOTH) is a twin stick shooter with a strategic slant. Rather than placing the player in an arena and pumping in wave after wave of enemies, the player instead faces off against a small number of enemies that each require a specific strategy to defeat. The player’s abilities never change, with movement and shooting being his only tools throughout the experience, but he must learn to alter his strategies as enemy behaviors change and new environmental obstacles are introduced across 64 levels.

The game is presented in a minimalist style – just like the developer’s previous indie work, 140 – with a solid color marking the outside of the arena, another color marking the background, and a pair of stylized level numbers representing the only decoration. Enemies are also comprised of single solid colors, with colors pulling in toward the center each time the enemy is shot, revealing a starry background behind the arena. Enemies appear to be 3D objects tumbling across the background, although their lack of texture gives them the appearance flat polygons that continuously change shape.

The player is represented by a white circle, or a pair of them in 2P co-op, which is able to move in any direction and aim independently. The player’s movement is considerably faster when he is not firing, and the tight enclosed arenas don’t offer much room to maneuver, so it’s important that the player learn when it’s best to quickly dodge and when it’s best to squeeze the trigger.

Bullets are emitted in a steady stream, allowing the player to aim a concentrated beam of destruction at an enemy in order to wear its health down. However, once an enemy is destroyed, it does not leave the arena. Instead, it continues to fly around, pursuing the player until the last enemy is destroyed. The player’s bullets travel straight through destroyed enemies, allowing him to target foes on the far side.

Touching the walls is OK, but the player is killed when touching an enemy or obstacle. In addition, the player’s progress is only recorded every four levels, so the player will need to repeat some levels in order to move forward, but this does add some additional challenge – and length – to an otherwise short core experience.

Moving from one level to the next causes the level numbers in the background to roll over like analogue mileage indicators, and levels are played in descending order from 64 to 01 (these level numbers are also represented in a tightly-packed level select screen that acts as the game’s only menu). Every four levels, the color scheme changes and new enemy types are introduced, requiring the player to adapt his strategies frequently throughout the experience.

At first, enemies simply tumble about, absorbing the player’s bullets until they are destroyed. Then the player is introduced to stationary lines that enemies can pass through but he cannot, requiring the player to be even more mindful of the crowded space. Later, the game introduces deadly moving lines that limit the player’s time to complete the level, lines that spin around, lines that disappear and reappear as enemies are destroyed, and curved lines that expand and contract.

Some enemy shapes have smaller shapes within them that are fired toward the player when the larger shape is destroyed. These smaller shapes act as projectiles, but they also bounce around the room after they slow down, turning them into additional obstacles to dodge. Sometimes larger enemies will send out blasts of these smaller shapes each their health is reduced, requiring multiple strikes to destroy. Other enemies are comprised of numerous smaller enemies that begin pursuing the player as each section is destroyed.

One of the more complex enemy types contains circles within them, and destroying these enemies causes them to drop their circles. Then, the next time the player destroys an enemy, he is teleported to that circle. This adds an extra layer of challenge as the player must ensure that his destination is clear of enemies and obstacles before destroying and enemy, and this also allows for some advanced strategy as the player lures enemies to one side of the screen and then quickly teleports to the opposite side to open fire from a distance.

There are also a number of expanding circles in the game, with some being triggered by destroying enemies and others growing steadily over time. These growing circles require extra care, as the player can reduce their growth by shooting at their centers, but destroying them completely causes the circles to continue growing until they eventually take up the entire screen, killing the player in the process.

More complex creations involve lines that extend between enemies, and connectors that appear when the player attacks enemies, requiring that the player strategically position himself when destroying targets. These battles require not only careful aim but a high degree of spatial awareness as well.

Once you complete the game, four additional sets of challenge levels are opened (with gradient-filled level numbers), offering dozens of new levels for players who have mastered the core mechanics. These consist of a random set of arenas and require that the player complete a series of levels – as indicated by the number on the level select screen – in a single run.

Thoth was developed by Jeppe Carlsen under his Carlsen Games label, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Jeppe previously developed 140 under this label and also worked on Playdead’s critically acclaimed Limbo and Inside. Music for the game was composed by by Cristian Vogel and SØS Gunver Ryberg.

The game was published by Double Fine Presents, the publishing arm of Double Fine, which also published Escape Goat 2.