When I think of some of my favorite chill games, it’s usually the games that might ask something from me, but never rushes me. It’s a game that charms me, but doesn’t push me along from one thing to the next. It’s an experience that feels wholesome and relaxing while engaging me just enough to keep things interesting. I think that’s all a part of what makes Toem such a delight. It’s a photography adventure in a hand drawn world, bursting with life and challenges that only an intrepid camera can solve. It’s got a fun sense of humor to boot.
A photographic expedition
Toem is an isometric experience from Swedish developers Something We Made. The story here isn’t too hefty. You take on the role of a nondescript child who has been living with their Nana up until now. Having reached an age where she thinks you’re ready for an adventure, she provides you with a camera, a photo album, and some wooden clogs, then sends you off into the world.
Throughout Toem, you end up at various locations full of quirky characters that have interesting problems. Often that leads to requests that can be solved by photography, or by collecting certain items (also often gained through your photography). By helping them, you can earn stamps that will let you get on board the bus and head off to the next locale. The locations include a forest full of campers, animals, and even spooky ghosts, a seaside town full of coastal beaches and activity, and a bustling city of busy bodies to name a few.
Toem isn’t an incredibly long game. The adventure may very well be over before you know it at about 3 to 4 hours without going absolutely 100 percent completionist. That said, it is quite the enjoyable one nonetheless. You’re never really on a time limit to do anything. There’s no currency to collect. There’s no way to lose short of not moving forward and continuing along your journey and that’s more of a you thing. It’s just a game full of quirky characters and the photograph-centric problems you’ll help them solve.
Want to get a picture of the woodsy hotel for its sleepy bear manager? You’re going to need to find a vantage point far from it to capture the whole thing and the scenic path is blocked by a log only some burly forest critters can help with. However, the only way they’ll help is if you find the brothers of one of them and annoy them by staring at them through your camera lense (they’re very camera shy). At it’s best, that’s the kind of tango Toem has you dance, but sometimes it’s also as simple as taking a picture of a certain situation like some squirming ants to solve a challenge. It’s also all punctuated by a chill soundtrack that thumps stylishly along the way.
Capturing each moment perfectly
Of course, the main mechanic of Toem is your camera and album and these things are quite fun and easy to use in Toem. Though much of the game is in an isometric view, you can, at any time, whip out your camera and get a picture of anything you want. At the very start, it has basic functionality. You can zoom in, zoom out, or flip the image to take a selfie. Later you’ll get a tripod for setting up more elaborate shots and a honker for getting reactions from your topics, but it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. There’s weather in some areas too and it can speckle your camera, but you also have a means to wipe the lense clean.
In all cases, I found Toem’s photography delightful. By taking pictures of animals and other living things, you can build a compendium, and you will often solve problems that demand a certain picture. That said, I also just found myself always taking pictures of anything that interested me in the game for fun. Heck, sometimes that playfulness paid off and I ended up taking a picture of something that I needed for a challenge I hadn’t come across yet. For example, I took a picture of a creepy photorealistic horse portrait that ended up being wanted by a horse ghost. Yeah. That happened. I also just found getting cool pictures and selfies with animals was an amusing time. Getting a cool dog I came across to sit still long enough for me to take a good photo is as difficult in this game as it is with my fidgety dog in real life. I found that quite amusing.
Unfortunately, this game seemed to somehow push the Switch a little bit at times. Though much of it was a fairly smooth adventure, there were quite some busy moments where it felt like the framerate took a hit. These were limited moments, but in such a short adventure, they’re certainly noticeable. That said, I appreciated the happy and dense dioramas full of stories, mysteries, and unique photographic subjects to be found enough to get past those busy spots.
Photos while you chill
Toem made me feel good and happy for my brief time with it. You can see more of what I enjoyed about it on my recent Indie-licious livestream, but most importantly, this is a heck of a relaxing game. I really like the photographic mechanics of it too. Games like Pokemon Snap have you on a time-limited rail trying to desperately time every shot perfectly. Meanwhile, Toem has you take your time, frame things up, put the zoom on proper, and take as many tries as you’d like to get it right with good music to accompany the process. It’s a short-lived expedition and can get choppy on the switch when there’s a lot going on in an area, but it’s still a charming experience I very much enjoyed my time with. I wouldn’t mind seeing more games take this more carefree route to a photographic experience in video games.
This review is based on a Nintendo Switch digital copy supplied by the publisher. Toem is out now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC via Steam and Epic Games Store.
- Very relaxing game, beginning to end
- Photography mechanic is very fun and freeform
- Explorable areas are cute and full of quirky characters
- Photo challenges are fun puzzles
- Soundtrack is extremely fun and relaxing throughout
- Full game is very short
- Some occasional framerate issues on Switch