Last week I wrote something with another editor here on My Games Lounge about games being potentially literature and art, Toren is a perfect example of this being the truth. It’s art style and presentation are utterly breathtaking with a feeling that reminds me of a very special game back on the PS2 era that captured that wonder perfectly. There is one feeling as I write this Toren Review, it’s best described as the Indie Ico and that is some statement.
It’s therefore making this review particularly hard and shows up the gaming industry’s issues in the same breath because the game as a technical piece of work simply lets down what could have been a modern classic. This is not the fault of the developers, the team are exceptionally small working out of Brazil and Swordtales have done a good job overall but the lack of polish on the game and some bugs that disrupt what is for the most part a beautiful experience just hold this game. And that makes me sad.
We are of course Indie Game Friendly here on MGL and we take things like the developer size and budget into our reviews but I can see this massively being underrated and potentially missed and that should not happen for those gamers who want to play something a little different and experience a vision that will suck you right into the world of Toren and Moonchild.
Look And Feel
There is going to be a theme to this review, often showing great highs with some big dips too. The graphics of the game are given a unique art style, one that sucks you in right away with it’s use of colour and it’s dark-fairytale land. You get the idea that every scene was meticulously drawn or even painted by hand before the game was even created and they have captured a world that is truly remarkable.
However it lacks a serious amount of polish and rough edges to the world stop you fully diving in at times since there is simply things that hinder you or the frame-rate goes off even some tear here and there. You’d imagine the developers knew of this but perhaps didn’t have the time or money to deal with it properly. It’s a shame but that is sometimes the cost of being an Indie Developer.
But one of the biggest saves is the soundtrack that is just beautiful and expertly intertwined with the story plus the moments in the game where you simply stop and wonder at what has just happened. Early on the tree of life comes from the ground and expands upwards in a gorgeous scene and then you are taken to dark dream worlds that will really intrigue you.
Some big highs and lows here but there is nothing that really spoils the game, just stops it from becoming the visual masterpiece it’s so close to being.
Story and Gameplay
The story is rather unusual, you are Moonchild and are trying to reach the top of the tower, Toren. There is a dragon attacking you and you must continue your journey until you have killed it. There is more of course, you enter dream realms at times and have to solve some puzzles using salt to mark out shapes on the floor. Some of these are option and tricky to find so you may miss some of these and therefore some of the story. This is a nice touch, it makes you want to come back and get more out of the game once finished.
Generally speaking though you are literally just trying to figure out what is going on, there is a strange feel to everything and you simply feel a lot like your character at times, a lost child wondering what is going on in the world around you.This appears to be the aim and they have done it well.
Again, this is all let down by technical issues with the gameplay. While the plat-forming sections are decent the combat with small enemies can lead to odd glitches that see you restarting check points and the camera gets blocked by items and you can no longer see where your character is. Puzzles range from too easy to quite hard but nothing will ever really test you too much but, again, I’m not sure this is the intention.
Had the controls been tightened and some of the collision detection worked on it really could have been amazing but, like it’s presentation this doesn’t ruin the game but it holds it back.
The game is under £10 for the standard edition and for what you are paying you really can’t argue, it’s only 3-4 hours long but its a 3-4 hours that will stay with you and you’ll want to play a bit more to figure out the clues you missed when you know what is happening at the end but the developers could have done more here to give you a reason to replay it a few times with some extras.
Personally this is a hard review, I loved it and would comfortably go through this game again tonight and love it more. It’s a personal game that you will embrace for what it is, a beautiful adventure that is something a bit different.
But you will also be annoyed that an idea as good as this one doesn’t get the budget or resources to make it into the masterpiece it could have been but for some additional technical work. People who need a game to be perfect and have sharp plat-forming controls may need to miss this one but those who want to experience something different and capture the feeling of being whisked to a world of fantasy and art, this is one for you.