Soothing Games Review: TOEM
By: L. Sahara McGirt (DarthSagaSwag)
Developer: Something We Made
Available on: Playstation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC - Steam, Epic Games Store
Review Console: Nintendo Switch Lite
Have you ever wanted to play Animal Crossing as a black and white photo adventure? TOEM might be the game for you.
Let's Get TOEM
TOEM kind of starts out like Pokémon with the whole "starting your adventure from home, mom (Nana, in TOEM's case) wants to talk to you." She hands you a camera and a 'Community Card' for you to gather stamps to get a free bus pass, then tells you to head on your way to experience TOEM. What is TOEM, exactly? From what Nana makes it sound like, it's reaching the peak of a mountain.
But is that really what TOEM is? As you embark on your adventure, you encounter many strange sights, taking pictures and pleasing enough people to get stamps so that you can get a free bus pass to your next destination.
TOEM is entirely in black and white. This works for the game as the cute hand-drawn visuals make you want to pull out your camera and take as many pictures as you can. The flat/3D visuals are reminiscent of Paper Mario, only you're not stopping to take photos of Gumbas, but of animals, bugs, strange creatures, buildings, even everyday objects. Visually, this is an interesting game. However, sometimes, the black and white visuals, while artistically fun and cute to look at, eventually lost my interest and made the game feel flat.
The soundtrack is as sleepy as the visuals. While soothing, for someone like me, this makes it hard for TOEM to keep my interest. (Though, I found amusement in the fact that the cassette player your character uses is called a 'hikelady.') Sometimes the soundtrack for this game was too soothing. While this game might be great for relaxing, it's not the most exciting visually or auditorily.
You're walking your way through this land of black and white visuals when suddenly, a ghost! Except this is not a scary ghost. This is a ghost who has forgotten what they looked like when they were alive. It's an interesting idea. Your character is tasked throughout the game as they go from town to town on their way to experience TOEM, most tasks requiring you to take pictures or use your camera in a unique fashion.
While taking pictures is fun at first, if fun is why you're playing this game rather than stopping to enjoy the sights, then it will not hold your attention long. Unfortunately, that was my case. I wasn't too interested in stopping to smell the roses as much as I should have been.
Cute little surprises galore await for you to photograph on your adventure. This worked in TOEM's favor. The little moments where something unexpected appeared to take pictures of. It's not always pictures of butterflies and rocks but pictures of monsters, strange creatures, and things you've never seen in real life.
Using the camera allows you to view things differently. TOEM does a great job of utilizing the camera as a tool to not only take pictures but search and explore the world around you. It offered a way to view TOEM in another dimension, which was nice.
Little messages sometimes appear at the bottom of the game screen reminding you to take breaks every once in a while, and while it's nice that the devs are concerned, the game is my break, so such a message is unnecessary, especially for such a short game. TOEM is not particularly long unless you do actually stop to smell the roses.
There is one point in the game where your swag is assessed to get past a bouncer of sorts. This appealed to me for obvious reasons. Once you find enough swag (which consists of finding more clothing) to get past the bouncer, you enter a clearing with one of the most interesting sights in the game that you must also get a picture of. That was particularly fun to see. There are other moments like this as you go along which keep the game interesting. What will you see next?
While TOEM is a cute game with the bonus of being able to pet the dog, but I never really reached TOEM. It wasn't for lack of trying, but maybe I just wasn't feeling this game. Overall, I give the game a 7 out of 10. It gets a bonus point for what I experienced in the forest and the ability to pet the dog and take pictures of cats. While I was not particularly interested, I understand what Something We Made is going for and the game played well.
TOEM releases this Friday, September 17th, on the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 5, and PC.
Thanks, Popagenda, for the TOEM review key for Nintendo Switch.