Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Toren Review

Toren is a game that someone like me probably should love. An aging manchild reading crusty old fantasy and sci-fi novels bought at a charity shop should be lapping this kind of shit up. But the problem is, as many wannabe creative types learn to their horror, what seems like a great idea on paper may have great difficulty translating to something that actually works in reality. This is the problem with Toren, as agonising to say that as it is, a strong concept and story can only carry you so far, and fun gameplay and smart level are needed to see you through.

Toren is the tale of a young girl destined to restore the moon to the sky, defeat an evil world rending dragon and save a doomed world, by scaling a babel-esque sky tower. That premise alone is enough to get the inner geek all worked up. But sadly some very generic puzzles and uninspired level design undermine it. And that's to say nothing of the camera that seems determined to sporadically change angles and jumping physics that catch you on minute bits of scenery. Being chased by the aforementioned dragon is presumably supposed to be terrifying, but it ends up being a frustrating bore as you trial and error your way from cover to cover trying to avoid his petrifying breath. Your character sometimes just refuses to snap to cover which not only frustrates, but ruins the etherial atmosphere the game tries to create.

But oh my, what an atmosphere. While the graphics certainly won't test most medium range graphics cards, the aesthetics and style of the visuals are just stunning and clearly come from some very accomplished concept art. The music blends in perfectly with the solitary and melancholy atmosphere of the girl's somber journey, and the story is magnificently told. This makes the immersion breaking moments even more jarring, and one is forced to question, if so much time was put into the story and setting, why wasn't at least as much time spent making the gameplay and puzzles interesting and fun, rather than dull puzzles that we've seen a hundred times before and some janky platforming? This wouldn't have been a tall order considering the game's rather brief duration.

It's all rather a shame, and as much as I would like to recommend Toren, I must say with a heavy heart it's just not a very fun game to play. Charm, story and strong character design can only see you so far, and if your fundamentals are lacking, your game is going to suffer. There is a great deal of potential here however, and I am very interested in what the developer plans to do next.

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