Look at this photograph!
- Developer: Something We Made
- Release date: 17th September 2021
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years (wouldn’t blame you, tbh) then you’ve probably come across the Danish concept Hygge. What you might not know is that neighbouring Sweden have their own take on the idea: Mys.
Mys promotes comfort, slowing down and taking time away from the stresses of the outside world.
This is exactly the spirit in which Swedish indie, Something We Made, have lovingly crafted their latest game, Toem. Playing as an unnamed adventurer, you navigate the Scandi-inspired landscapes armed with a vintage film camera – ready to assist the quirky inhabitants with their often-outlandish requests. Each task you successfully complete earns you a stamp on your community card – get enough of these and you can hop on the bus to the next destination.
First off – Toem is gorgeous. The hand-drawn animation is charming yet simple and manages to conjure the tranquillity of nature – rambling through the depths of a dark forest I was bathed in zen by the shafts of light bursting through the forest canopies. There’s some clever game design at play here; initially navigating the landscape from an isometric view, a tap of the Triangle button and you’re staring first-person down the barrel of your lens in camera view. Some of Toem’s quests require you to snap a photo of a rare insect or animal that can only be seen in detail through camera mode. This is where the game really shines – you’re asked to slow down, zoom in and literally see the world from a different point of view. It’s a slight shame, then, that when zooming in for a close-up, some of the animation becomes pixelated and blurry. I stumbled across a couple of noticeable frame-rate drops when moving the camera, too. These weren’t major issues by any stretch but it did sometimes break the immersion a little.
NPCs in Toem are genuinely funny. The dialogue is well-written, often unexpected and full of heart. It never feels a slog completing quests either. Inhabitants of the world will ask for your help with a different puzzle and, as you progress through the game, the difficultly levels up in complexity, but always feels appropriately challenging without being deliberately obtuse. And it’s not just about snapping pretty pictures – you guide fishing boats away from foreboding rocks amidst a storm, your camera carving the path to safety after the local lighthouse conks out.
That’s not to say taking photos isn’t enjoyable. Toem takes advantage of the PS5’s next-gen features with a subtle but effective use of the DualSense’s haptic feedback. Pressing the R2 trigger to take a photo feels like you’re actually pushing back against an old, metallic shutter button. But it’s the games implementation of 3D Audio that truly brings everything together. Rumsklang’s sound design is simply sublime. You feel the wind whistling through your ears, the crackling of firewood, the dull hum of city hubbub. It instils a deep calm and serenity, more powerful than a thousand Whale Song CDs.
Toem doesn’t overstay it’s welcome – I reached the end credits in a little over three and a half hours – but for those that want more, there are challenges that can only be finished after the main story (as well as a photo album of the world’s animals to complete) so there’s every reason to jump back in and start snapping. I spent some time after the credits flicking through my photo album and reflecting on the journey I’d taken. I could remember how each shot made me feel. In what was a relatively short space of time, I felt like I’d made new memories.
Toem is a charming, cozy adventure game that asks you to slow down and take in the wonders of the world. To see things from a different angle. It achieves this through innovative and often hilarious puzzles that are a delight to solve, in a beautiful world teeming with life and soul. The odd graphical issue aside, Toem is a super-chill game that’s not to be missed.
- Gorgeous, hand-drawn animation
- Innovative, unexpected puzzles
- Great use of next-gen features
- Funny, well-written dialogue
- Soundtrack slaps
- Animation can look blurry/pixellated when zoomed in
- A few frame-rate drops when rotating the overworld camera
Score: 9/10 – Excellent