TOEM – Picture Perfect
Switch, Steam, PS5
TOEM is, in a word, lovely. Every aspect of its tightly built world and story is bursting with kindness, sincerity and more than a few chuckles. Go on a chill adventure, take a few dozen cool snaps and have a few laughs along the way. What’s not to love?
TOEM is a low-vibes adventure game, with your main mode of interaction with the world being through your chunky polaroid camera (complete with dynamic zoom). You’ll make your way through a handful of locations, each broken into a dozen or more tiny dioramic boxes. Exploring each area will lead you to people that need your happy snapping capabilities – whether that’s in the form of capturing the absurdly tall hotel from just the right angle, or tracking down the perfect example of a ghost horse’s former beauty.
You’ll complete a bunch of tasks for people in each area, collecting stamps along the way, with a need to hit a minimum threshold before advancing. You might need 9 stamps out of a total of 16 to catch the next bus ride, but let’s be honest – you’ll probably want to do every single one. Who doesn’t want to help the old grumpy ghost smell a Supreme Deluxe Sandwich one last time before they move on?
There isn’t all that much to the photography – mostly just point and shoot – but it serves as the vehicle driving you through your adventure well. Though, it definitely is quite neat to go from this top-down, birds-eye view, where you can rotate and zoom in and out of each Captain Toad like area, to view things from a first-person perspective. It doesn’t do a massive amount with this perspective shift puzzle wise, but there are some neat moments here and there.
You do get a tripod which is fun to line up shots, and of course, the odd selfie here and there is always delightful. Especially given the array of collectable clothing items you’ll find along the way. Particularly the hats. Truly wonderful hats.
There’s a terrific blend of 2D and 3D in the design – a clever papercraft aesthetic that is at once uniform yet also full of possibility. Trees can be both boxed and flat, yet both feel natural in this world.
Every locale of TOEM is such an oddball mix of creatures and personalities, locations, and interactions. A sentient hotdog serves ant-like creatures their signature dish; the power plant is run by beings that look like they were pulled from Portal’s instructional videos. It makes for a world of wonder where anything is a possibility. It’s lighthearted and full of joy, but never silly for the sake of it. It’s on the good side of wholesome – it makes you smile with its absurdity and warmth.
The act of simply taking a photo in TOEM couldn’t be more spot on. Pointing, zooming and moving the camera around feels appropriately weighty; every snap is accompanied by the most satisfying and tactile click. In fact, there’s just something about every sound that comes from this game that will bring a grin to your face – the clip-clop of your pair of clogs, the Banjo-Kazooie speak of the townsfolk. All the music tracks are similarly pleasing.
It’s in all these small details that TOEM really shines. Everything is just so carefully, lovingly crafted. You can feel the joy and love poured into every facet of TOEM, from every corner of its lovely little world.
Throughout my 4 hour jaunt across a handful of locations, no real pressure was placed on completing the end goal – thus it was back seated and rarely pondered, much like the wonderful A Short Hike. Also, like the beloved little gem, this makes getting to and experiencing the end a swell little bonus, the icing on the cake to the wonderful few hours you’ve spent amongst newly made friends.
There’s no big bad to cross, no huge conflict to overcome – just a small adventure with joy and happiness aplenty. TOEM elicited more than a few genuine chuckles from me as I played, barely able to put it down from start to finish. For anyone looking to vibe out and play something with a genuine sincerity to its giant heart, TOEM is an easy recommendation.
TOEM was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly supplied by the Publisher and PopAgenda.