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'TOEM’ Review: A Game About Pictures That’s Worth A Thousand Words

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'TOEM’ Review: A Game About Pictures That’s Worth A Thousand Words

As I equip my camera to capture yet another beautiful moment, I suddenly realise how cleverly put together TOEM is. Despite it being a fabricated reality, the many snap-worthy moments never feel contrived to the point of shattering the illusion of the in-game world. In fact, I feel so strangely at home here that I feel a pang of melancholy at the prospect of reaching the game's end. Just as this thought begins to take hold, I'm immediately grabbed by another perfect photo op. This constant desire to take pictures is the true magic of TOEM.

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See the trailer for TOEM here

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Photography games are nothing new, of course. From classics like Fatal Frame to modern titles like New Pokémon Snap, cameras are often used to experience virtual worlds. While the former uses the camera as a weapon, the latter uses it as a documentary tool. TOEM leans into the latter category, but places you in an entirely black-and-white world.

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A world devoid of colour is an odd place to set a game where you take pictures. Black and white is the canvas in Chicory: A Colorful Tale (which we at GAMINGbible love, by the way), but your role in that game is to restore the world to its former glory by liberally applying colours (as the name probably suggests).

TOEM / Credit: Something We Made
TOEM / Credit: Something We Made

TOEM, on the other hand, confidently frames most of its beauty without the need for a huge range of hues. This bold creative choice could easily have resulted in a visually dull experience, but developer Something We Made has instead produced a true treat for the eyes.

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Your role in TOEM is to embark on a journey through the small but well-populated world, snapping all manner of sights as you go. Throughout your adventure, you'll be tasked with capturing many different moments, with each successful shot earning you a stamp. Collect enough stamps and you're free to move on to the next area. It's a simple process, made more enjoyable by the variety of scenarios, and a wealth of extra challenges.

TOEM / Credit: Something We Made
TOEM / Credit: Something We Made

In addition to the core tasks, there are specific locations to shoot in each level, as well as special blocks that are triggered when you put them on film. There are also a variety of wardrobe items to find, letting you put your own unique dress sense on your protagonist.

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Another clever feature is the inclusion of a tripod, which lets you capture shots remotely. This extra angle is vital for completing some requests, and opens up a new range of possibilities when it comes to selfies. It's the best way to capture your new threads when you change your look.

TOEM / Credit: Something We Made
TOEM / Credit: Something We Made

Despite plenty to do, the main story of TOEM can be comfortably finished in under three hours, but a completionist run will have you at it for another few hours, including a bit of scratching your head at times. However, it doesn't feel too short, even if I never wanted it to end.

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Arriving at the final photo op, where we finally see the eponymous TOEM phenomenon, I was surprisingly moved by the beauty of the moment. I felt naturally at one with the world of TOEM, like a tiny grain of sand on a beach, basking in the glow of something I didn't understand, but happy nevertheless.

TOEM / Credit: Something We Made
TOEM / Credit: Something We Made

Luckily, TOEM doesn't end when the credits roll. In fact, at the time of beating the game, I'd only unlocked just under half of the game's achievements. This stat made me very happy, as I was nowhere near done with my photo-taking adventure through this black-and-white paradise.

Overall, TOEM is a remarkable take on the photography game genre, if it is a genre at all. You take pictures both to progress in the game and for your own pleasure, with each shot further strengthening your link to the in-game world and its delightful characters. While it's predominantly a happy-go-lucky experience, there are some poignant moments, and it's a game that could stay in your heart long after you beat it.

Pros: Visually gorgeous, lots to do, worth playing after credits roll

Cons: Some framerate drops in bigger areas, some may think it's too short

For fans of: Chicory, Button City, New Pokémon Snap

9/10: Exceptional


TOEM releases September 17, 2021 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and PC. Game tested on Switch with code provided by the publisher.
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Featured Image Credit: Something We Made

Topics: Review, Indie Games

James Daly
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