For some time, part of the independent scene has been passionate about an alternative vision of the video game that makes concepts such as relaxation and narrative lightness central in the gameplay, introduced to contrast the dominant forms of core videogame production, exasperated by the search for adrenaline and emotion easy at all costs. There TOEM review talks about one of those adventures that only need to be lived, without being arrogant in their way of presenting themselves as different and without accompanying adolescent themes.
History and missions
The start point of TOEM is very simple: the protagonist receives a camera as a gift with which he is asked to photograph the top of a mountain, apparently a place of infinite beauty. The journey he must undertake to reach it, set in a Scandinavia between the modern and the fantastic, will however be different from the usual, because he will have to travel by bus for which he will get the tickets for free by helping the people of the places he will visit. Taking away the protagonist’s house, where you spend a few minutes, and the top of the mountain, for the same reason, in total there are four main places to explore from head to toe, divided into different sectors, going in search of missions to be obtained and photographs to take.
Yes, because in most cases, to solve someone’s problem, ours will have to photograph a specific subject, often just suggested, looking for it in the maps.
Each place has its own dedicated missions, even if there is no lack of recursive ones, that is, present in every major place, such as those assigned by the photography club or those of a military group looking for a spy. There is also no shortage of goals spread over multiple places, which require you to go back and forth to be reached. For example, a character will ask us to photograph four monsters, one for each place that can be visited, all well hidden in the scenarios, while another character will ask us to help some of his “colleagues”, scattered throughout the maps.
As already mentioned several times, TOEM’s gameplay is focused on photography. More than anything else on the observation of the world around us, in which photography becomes the tool to translate intuition into real action. The control system is really simple: the character is framed in the third person and moves through three-dimensional environments made as if they were black and white illustrations from a children’s book.
The shot can be zoomed at will, with the camera positioned to rotate around the protagonist, so as to always force you to examine the game world holding it as a pivot. This is a necessary solution due to the very nature of the gameplay: if the camera had been freer, we would have soon lost sight of our photographer, making some missions very trivial.
While you explore, you can also find some objects special, some purely cosmetic, while others useful for solving certain missions. For example, to see ghosts you need specific glasses, while to reach a particularly cold and windy area you need to dress in very warm clothes. There are also objects that help to photograph, such as the tripod, perfect for photographing the most shy subjects, or the trumpet, which scares animals and allows them to come out of their burrows. However, when you have found the subject to photograph, just take out the camera, compose the shot and shoot, immediately adding the photo to our album. When we have photographed what we think is a useful subject for solving a mission, just go back to whoever assigned it to us and show him the photo. If successful we will receive our coach stamp.
TOEM is a quiet and lovable game, in which you turn for a few hours in environments populated by imaginative characters, such as a very shy hippo girl or a family of balloons, just to name a couple, observing every nook and cranny in search of the decisive photo. It is precisely in this relaxation that his greatest strength lies. To define it, it is a kind of photographic output diluted in a video game: you reach unknown places, you look around a lot and you only shoot when you are sure you can take a good picture.
Below there is really nothing else, if not the invitation to search for ourselves a form of elementary and childish wonder, just as the protagonist tries to reach his mountain. TOEM flows light and cheerful like a breath of summer breeze, full of songs and joy. You get to the end in a few hours, but you are strangely satisfied. It is a walk and as such it should be lived. The puzzles themselves are never too challenging, although there are easier and more difficult ones everywhere. Let’s say that with a little effort it is never impossible to understand what the other characters want and in any case there are always enough simple missions to allow practically anyone to advance in the game without major problems.