TOEM: I always wanted to be a professional photographer since I was a kid. It wasn’t just that photographers looked good in movies and on TV; the notion of going to exotic places and capturing stunning photographs appealed to a young man eager to leave his tiny village behind forever. In retrospect, I regret not following through on many of my hobbies and interests.
Eventually, my parents grew weary of paying for my musical endeavors like bass guitar and keyboard and sports like karate and basketball. So, despite my desire for a Nikon F-301 or Fujifilm GS645S, the most I could hope for was a point-and-click camera from CVS.
I never lost interest in photography, though, and the gaming industry has really piqued my interest in it recently with all of the amazing in-game photographic tools they continue to create. There is a whole buffet of photographs choices in games, but as TOEM showed me, you don’t always need all those gadgets and gizmos to capture a good image. When all you need is a powerful zoom and fast focusing, that’s all you need.
If you’ve played A Short Hike, you’ll notice a lot of similarities in TOEM. I apologize for bringing it up again in a review of a wholesome game. In the game, a young somebody goes on an adventure, performing good acts for a diverse array of inquisitive people along the way, ending in a stunning visual to finish off their voyage. I’m not sure whether A Short Hike influenced TOEM, but the parallels are striking.
The distinctions between TOEM and that other game and the numerous others in the genre are what set it unique. This game is mostly about taking pictures. A camera with zoom is handed to the player’s character by their grandma, and they are then dispatched to take photos of TOEM, the game’s eponymous character. To get there, they’ll have to take a few bus trips, and the only way they can afford to do so is to perform various chores at various charming places.
Most of these jobs are straightforward, requiring you to take a picture of or retrieve a particular object. For the most part, the NPCs you talk to will be very clear about what they want. To begin with, one character requested that I capture photos of “small troops,” and I wasted 10 minutes searching for toy soldiers before realizing that these weren’t what they meant.
It’s the “every part of the horse” approach that the developer sometimes takes to accomplishing some of these jobs that I find fascinating. To complete all 60+ assignments, you’ll need to find every possible option in TOEM, which I won’t tell you about here. As a bonus, it adds variety to the more mundane fetch quests and picture assignments you’ll encounter while also showcasing the wide range of options available to players.
And that’s critical, given that the term itself isn’t particularly lengthy or difficult to understand. It should take most individuals between four and five hours to complete, depending on whether they’re aiming for the platinum award or not. You’ll never feel slowed down in any of the game’s six locales, so you’ll be able to go through it quickly. TOEM’s leisurely pace contributed to my enjoyment of the novel.
Of course, one of the reasons I had such a good day was because the scenery and photography were both excellent. The camera’s functions are intuitive and using the horn attachment to scare people resulted in hilarious reaction pictures. TOEM’s visual direction reminds me of a monochrome ToeJam & Earl: The Long and Winding Road. It’s Back in the Groove, the game’s charming theme song, which lifts the game’s overall presentation, which includes funny text and light, breezy music.
TOEM’s outstanding implementation of the ideas it puts forward sets it apart from other good games that stagnate at mediocrity. There isn’t a single thing about this design that makes me wonder. A well-crafted journey through a beautiful universe, that’s all this is. One that makes me want to come back even after I’ve completed the game to see what else I can snap funny photos of.