I like taking pictures. I always have. In fact, I’ve parlayed that into a career and still like to take more pictures in my freetime. What I mean to say is it’s not really a hard sell to get me to play games with some sort of photographic element. I might even have more fun with a photo mode in a game than the game itself, in some cases. Toem is a cute little hand drawn wonder of a game by Something We Made out of Sweden that’s light and carefree and all about snapping photos.
In Toem you play as a little kid whose grandma sends them off to take photos and experience the “Toem” phenomenon–something she took pictures of as a younger person. You get her camera and can earn some upgrades and start off in your own backyard snapping pictures to earn stamps to ride the bus to the next town over. The controls are quite simple, with an easy to use tool wheel and most things being controlled by the mouse–dialog advancement, movement, etc. Taking photos is a snap too. You can hold down the left mouse button and drag things around to get the angles you want, and there’s even a flip feature on the camera that lets you turn the camera on yourself. Later on, you can earn a tripod to allow you to get pictures from further off, too.
Most of what you do in Toem is based on taking photos. There are all sorts of adorable and unusual characters to talk to, all of whom have different tasks for you to complete with your trusty camera–from photographing plant life to catching glimpses of storied monsters to taking promo pics for a hotelier. The characters are wacky and humorous and there were a lot of genuine smiles to be had just encountering them along the way. Some of the photo quests objectives are quite clear and others take a little more puzzling out, but
I think Toem hits a good balance between too straightforward and not straightforward enough.
In the demo I played there’s a good amount of areas, strange happenings and quests to work through, and there’s plenty of achievements to unlock, too. There’s even a compendium that has you taking photos of specific objects in the environment, and when you unlock a compendium item, you get a sort of “foil card” showing off your best shot. You can also take random photos, which means you can go off on your own sort of photographic sandbox adventures at will, something I didn’t initially see myself doing but that I later ended up getting into anyway.
Toem’s also got a pretty nice art style and soundtrack, with a cassette player you can easily access to change the tapes in once you acquire them from your various journeys, adding to the chill ambiance. There’s even a fashion element in Toem, which allows you to dress up with silly things like giant foam fingers or scout caps and wooden clogs. Even though I do love photography games, I didn’t think Toem would grab me at first, but by the time I really hit my stride in Toem and the demo was over I was a little sad there wasn’t more of it to explore, and that makes me excited for what’s to come when it reaches full release.
Toem’s set for release sometime in 2021, but you can download a demo on Steam now to start your own adventure.
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