TOEM is an absolutely delightful game, let’s get that right out of the way.
The entire core premise of taking photos, earning stamps, and discovering unique types of wildlife as you move through this quirky monochrome world is just so refreshing and perhaps to some people, surprisingly enjoyable.
It’s essentially a puzzle game set in various little dioramas. You meet people, chat to them, find out what they’re interested in or what’s important to them, then take a photo and hopefully give them what they’re looking for.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure you’re zoomed in correctly, have angled the shot just right, and sometimes even put yourself in the shot for proof you were there. As you progress, you’ll also get other neat mods for your camera to try out different things.
Essentially, they’ve built an entire game around a photo mode, though admittedly a lot of the nuances people like to experiment with aren’t here, such as filters and floating cameras.
What’s exceptional about TOEM is that it never wears out its welcome. Each of its towns feel different and you’ll want to take the time to explore them top to bottom. Sometimes more areas open up when you solve puzzles, like helping to move a log out of the way or activating a mini-rail.
One minute you’ll find yourself underwater, looking for buried treasure, and the next you’ll be at a fashion show, helping set the latest trends.
You’ll progress by fulfilling lots of tasks for the residents of each area and in return you’re awarded a stamp. Eventually, once you reach the required amount, you can then visit the ticketmaster and hop on a bus to the next area.
So, in theory, then, you could skip a lot of the missions if you want to, but this is a game that you’ll want to complete in full rather than whizzing through and missing half of the cool things it wants you to achieve.
But it’s not just as simple as taking a photograph as you’ll also need to use the camera to see things others can’t, like looking deep into a storm, seeing things off in the distance, and even peering in the dark. As mentioned, there’s a real puzzle-solving element to TOEM which ultimately helps to make something really quite creative.
The writing is brilliant too, and you’ll find the unusual cast of characters likeable and intriguing in their own ways. There’s even recurring characters that will pop up in all the towns, so you’ll get those recurring missions that feed into a larger story.
TOEM truly has some special moments as well, like finding hidden secrets on the side of a building or watching people run around Logcity, rushing around to get somewhere while being seemingly aimless at the same time.
Without wanting to sound cliche, TOEM is a bit like a poem, a love letter to photography, of creating beautiful memories, and indeed, the hilarity that can also come attached to that. How many stupid photos have we all taken while trying to get that perfect shot? There’ll definitely be a few of those.
And to add to that hilarity even more you can wear a silly hat or random pair of glasses just to really make a semi-serious picture look absolutely ridiculous. In that way, TOEM is getting you to tell your own story even though you still have the same direction and purpose.
Even though it’s devoid of color, TOEM’s personality is clear for all to see. It still offers more in the way of style and vision than most other games that released this year, and that is also expressed through its lovely soundtrack, which you can flick on and off with your Hikelady cassette player, finding new tracks as you progress through the world.
TOEM is wonderful and even though the indie field is extremely competitive this year, I would easily rank it among the very best I’ve played. It’s smart, refreshing, and is so much fun to play. Please play TOEM!
+ A really refreshing gameplay hook
+ Full of memorable moments
+ Gorgeous soundtrack
TOEM is now available on PC, PlayStation 5, and Switch
Played on PS5
Code kindly provided by Something We Made