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TOEM: A Photo Adventure review - an excellent adventure

By Lewis Packwood. Posted

When playing TOEM, it struck me how few games require you to actually take in what’s around you. Giant arrows often direct you to your next objective, while glowing outlines highlight pickup-able objects, eliminating the need to really analyse your surroundings. You may even spend more time looking at the minimap in the corner of the screen than on the street you’re hurtling down.

But in TOEM you need to really look if you’re to solve any of the game’s charming puzzles. Sometimes you’ll receive a direction that’s obvious. “Take a photo of a snowman”. “Take a picture of the hotel”. Sometimes it’s more of a cryptic clue. “Something distorted”. “Hang in there, buddy”. As you whip out your camera, the perspective of the world shifts. Suddenly you can peer behind buildings and spot things that are obscured from the isometric world view. Is that an animal crawling around down there? Snap it to add to the compendium. For a seemingly simple black and white world, there’s so much to discover on every screen – each level a delicately created diorama.

TOEM’s plot follows the usual arc. A youngster leaves home on a quest – in this case, to venture up a mountain to find the mystical TOEM. But rather than a sword and shield, your only weapon is your trusty camera. And there’s no conflict: your sole method of progression is by helping people in whatever way you can. Grateful citizens award you with a stamp for your community card – acquire the requisite number of stamps and you’re granted a free bus ride to the next locale. Oh look, a yeti wants a photo of fluffy things. Snap! There you go, sir.

The isometric world switches to first-person view when you whip out your camera.

It’s a wholesome twist on the hero’s journey, and an affecting one. At the end of your trip – which will take around five hours if you dally to aid everyone you can along the way – the photos you’ve taken are displayed as the credits roll, and it’s like a trip down memory lane. Oh, I remember that fashion show! That balloon animal! It’s like a holiday. A memorable holiday, one so perfect, so charming, so lovely that you never want it to end.

Thankfully, there are a handful of well-hidden secrets to discover after the credits scroll off screen. But TOEM is a game that will stay with you long after it’s all over. It’s the very definition of wholesome, yet it’s not cloying in any way. The dialogue is fleeting but fun, and the characters are beautifully drawn from just a few lines (in both the literary and graphical sense). Take an evening to explore this world. Take a good look at everything. You won’t forget it in a hurry.

Highlight

Is there anything more exciting than getting a new hat? Obviously not, and Something We Made knows this, hence why there’s all sorts of delightful headgear to collect in TOEM. Some hats have specific uses, but mostly their sole purpose is to make you feel good and look even better.

Verdict: 87%

A heartfelt bundle of loveliness that will raise your spirits and warm your soul.

Genre: Puzzle adventure Format: PC (tested) / PS5 / Switch / Mac Developer: Something We Made Publisher: Something We Made Price: £15 Release: Out now Social: @SWMGames

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