Toem review: Adventure is child’s play!
When I think of some of my favorite chill games, it’s usually the games that might ask me something, but never rush me. It’s a game that charms me, but doesn’t push me from one thing to another. It’s a healthy and relaxing experience while engaging just enough to keep things interesting. I think this is all part of what makes Toem such a delight. It’s a photographic adventure in a hand-drawn world, brimming with life and challenges that only a fearless camera can solve. He has a fun sense of humor to boot.
A photographic expedition
Toem is an isometric experiment from Swedish developers Something We Made. The story here is not too heavy. You play as an ordinary child who has lived with his Nana until now. Having reached an age where she thinks you are ready for adventure, she provides you with a camera, photo album, and wooden clogs and then sends you out into the world.
Throughout Toem, you find yourself in various places full of original characters who have some interesting issues. This often leads to requests which can be solved by photography or by collecting certain items (also often obtained through your photography). By helping them you can earn stamps that will allow you to board the bus and get to the next location. The locations include a forest full of campers, animals and even spooky ghosts, a beach town full of beaches and coastal activities, and a bustling town of busy bodies to name a few.
Toem is not an incredibly long game. The adventure may very well be over before you know it after 3 to 4 hours or so without being completely finished. Having said that, it is still quite pleasant. You are never really limited in time to do anything. There is no change to collect. There is no way to lose unless you just hold off and continue your journey and it’s more of your business. It’s just a game full of quirky characters and photography-centric problems that you’ll help them solve.
Want to take a photo of the wooded hotel for its sleeping bear manager? You’ll have to find a vantage point far away from it to capture it all, and the scenic path is blocked by a log that only a few forest critters can help. However, the only way for them to help you is to find one of their brothers and annoy them by looking at them through your camera lens (they are very shy in front of the camera) . At best, it’s the kind of tango Toem makes you dance, but sometimes it’s as easy as snapping a picture of a certain situation like ants squirming to solve a challenge. Everything is also punctuated by a relaxing soundtrack that resonates in style throughout the course.
Capture every moment perfectly
Of course, Toem’s main mechanic is your camera and album and those things are pretty fun and easy to use in Toem. Although much of the game is in isometric view, at any time you can pull out your camera and get a picture of whatever you want. At the very beginning, it has basic functionality. You can zoom in, zoom out or flip the image to take a selfie. Later, you’ll get a tripod to set up more elaborate shots and a horn to get feedback from your subjects, but it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. There is also weather in some areas and it may stain your camera, but you also have a way to wipe the lens.
Either way, I found Toem’s photograph delicious. By taking pictures of animals and other living things, you can create a compendium and often solve problems that require a certain image. Having said that, I also found myself always taking pictures of everything I was interested in about the game for fun. Hell, sometimes this game paid off and I ended up taking a photo of something I needed for a challenge I hadn’t yet faced. For example, I took a photo of a spooky photorealistic horse portrait that ended up being wanted by a horse ghost. Yes. It happened. I also just found costs photos and selfies with animals was a fun time. Getting a cool dog that I have met to sit still long enough for me to take a good photo is as difficult in this game as it is with my restless dog in real life. I found it quite funny.
Unfortunately, this game seemed to push the Switch a bit at times. While much of the adventure was pretty smooth, there were some pretty busy times where the framerate took a hit. These are limited times, but in such a short adventure they are certainly noticeable. That said, I enjoyed the cheerful, dense dioramas full of stories, mysteries, and unique photographic subjects to be found enough to get past these busy places.
Photos while you relax
Toem made me feel good and happy during my brief stay with him. You can see more of what I enjoyed about this on my recent Indie-licious livestream, but more importantly, it’s one hell of a relaxing game. I really like the photographic mechanics of this one too. Games like Pokemon Snap put you on a time-limited rail, desperately trying to time every shot perfectly. Meanwhile, Toem asks you to take your time, frame things, zoom in correctly, and do as many tries as you want to get it right with great music to accompany the process. It is a short trip and can be hectic when there is a lot going on in an area, but it was still a lovely experience that I enjoyed my time very much. I wouldn’t mind seeing more games take this more carefree path to a photographic experience in video games.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital copy provided by the publisher. Toem is now available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC through Steam and the Epic Games Store.