Developer: Fireart Games
Release Date: January 28, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: The Irregular Corporation
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
When crafting a puzzle game, there needs to be some level of internal consistency. You know, logic should be followed, or else you’ll leave the player confused, confuddled, and ultimately confounded. Still, developers often attempt to walk the fine line with just the right of internal logic, which may leave the player kicking themselves for the fact they didn’t get it sooner.
Now, when you try to connect these puzzles to a narrative, you only really need to apply “logic” to the actual puzzle-solving. Leaving everything else fair game. This is probably why puzzle games are all so drastically different from one another. After a glance at the FireArt Games-developed TOHU, I was interested to see what type of puzzle adventure was awaiting me behind its charming presentation.
TOHU is set in a magical world constructed of various weird and wonderful fish planets and follows the story of a young girl and her mechanical alter ego, Cubus. A strange cube wizard has appeared on the fish planets and destroyed the sacred engine. This action has put the lives of everyone in danger, and someone needs to fix it before it’s too late.
Enter our hero, the young girl who can use a strange trinket made by an old friend named Juncle, which can transform into a powerful robot. This unique ability allows her to lift heavy objects and complete tasks, and it’s the player’s job to guide her through attempts to repair the sacred engine and protect it from the newcomer who wishes to destroy it.
TOHU is a point-and-click puzzle game, which means I’ll be definitely recommending the PC version over its console release. It’s much more comfortable to move a mouse than it is to move an analog stick, but this is just my preference. The cursor takes on a different form depending on the kind of interaction you can have with the environment.
Except for actual plot progression and character communication, TOHU doesn’t like to use words. When you select something important that you can’t interact with at that time, the Girl or Cubus will shake their heads and make an “uh uh” noise. Some interactable objects may even require you to be specifically one or the other, and the title will indicate when you need to swap, but otherwise, you’re on your own.
Well, that’s not entirely true. You have a little gamepad that shows the current objectives as well as the objectives you’ve cleared in each chapter. It also displays collectibles you find in stages, represented by cartoonish creatures that become emblazoned on cards. Most importantly, though, is that it contains a hint menu. By playing an unlocking mini-game, you’ll be able to unlock a page of hints to clear the current puzzle.
However, these are told entirely without words, which still leaves you a little bit of effort deciphering the images you see before solving the puzzles. Even if some blatantly tell you the answers with their pictures, there’s still some catharsis to be had when using the hints to solve the puzzles. Especially since you still need to play a timing-based mini-game to actually get them in the first place. The most challenging part of the puzzles sometimes is noticing what actually can be grabbed, as there are a couple of occasions where you may question how you were supposed to pick that object out from the background but they were most often heavily grounded. When I eventually worked out the solutions to most puzzles I would kick myself for taking so long to complete them.
The game’s opening and its loading screens recommend you wear headphones, and it’s certainly for good reason because it won’t be long before you’ll be wanting Christopher Larkin’s incredibly gentle and relaxing atmospheric compositions injected into your veins. Each chapter has its own piece of amazing background music to help you soak in the picturesque world. These areas are also filled with weird creatures, fantastically animated places, and environments that can be everything from simply strange to outright Escher levels of architecture.
The dull pastel colors make it all easy on the eyes, too, as you watch your lead hop around the stages, with a whole collection of different animations depending on the interactable object. Even when I became stuck and wanted to take a break, I couldn’t help but leave the game up while doing something else to listen to the tunes. It’s a shame that you can’t toggle anything else in the options menu beside the master volume. It doesn’t ruin the experience by any measure, though.
TOHU is almost certainly a puzzle adventure that will win you over based on its visual charm alone. Sadly, the game doesn’t really expand on the wonderful world it presents with a matching narrative. Still, the beautiful environments, clever puzzle design, and wonderful soundtrack will hold your attention across this exceptional but short experience.
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