We can all feel like we deserve a good jolly holiday, especially after the season where we tend to loosen our wallets more than we can afford to in an effort to spread good cheer to those we care for. Yet, all that overspending, giving, planning and preparing that my other half runs around doing this time of year sure makes me feel exhausted. It makes me want to just kick back, relax and soak up a sun that never seems to reach rainy Manchester.
As odd as it may be, Shin’en Multimedia, the team behind Nano Assault Neo and Fast RMX, happen to have us covered. The Touryst sends the player on a well-deserved vacation across several voxel islands full of wonder, raves, beaches and excursions that every travel agent promises during the January sales. However, what The Touryst can promise that a budget package holiday can’t, is an instant flightless journey with no risk of nausea or food poisoning whatsoever.
The Touryst is a delightful game that is simply fun to interact with. It’s a game full of chores and things to do that would often fit within sidequest territory of an action RPG minus the hacking and slashing. I found it something to switch my brain off to for the most part, and back on again when a task required it again. Thatt would often make me feel somewhat resentful. There is good reason for this though, as I usually found the puzzle aspects to be by far the weakest part of my trip across the Monument Islands.
As the name suggests, the mysterious Monument Islands have a secret buried within them that our moustachioed protagonist is curiously eager to uncover. Who seems even more eager, however, is the old man that steers the holidaymaker from the joys of building upon his tan and waistline towards an active pursuit of discovery. It’s a neat concept to get the ball rolling for a game that is never in a rush to push the player forwards.
The tasks and activities that litter the islands are more like homages to what’s been done many times before in the past. However, the way they correlate together to provide a more matchbox than sandbox experience works perfectly towards the game’s dioramic toy-like style. Just scuba diving alone amongst playful fish to the ambient tones that purposely reflect David Wise’s underwater theme that was composed for Donkey Kong Country is holiday therapy at its finest.
It’s like a voxel Shenmue, sidetracking Ryo’s hunt for revenge in favour of tourism and amusements. There’s even an arcade with high scores to beat cloning the coin-op styles of Breakout, Bomb Jack and Shin’en’s own Fast RMX with a checkpoint twist on Outrun. You can go surfing, fly a drone, go canoeing or choose to help the locals with various favours – whether that be snapping photos for an art gallery or helping a tribe get back their musical groove with a bit of simple rhythm-based drumming. The Touryst is a game robust with bite-sized activities that turn out to be far more interesting than the main task at hand.
That main task comes in the puzzle elements of the monuments. It was never their presence that put me off enjoying them, it was more the presentation and solutions required in order to solve them. They would present themselves clearly enough to the point that I could see my six-year-old daughter easily figuring them out on her own. While this may sound like criticism directed towards its lack of cognitive challenge, the simplicity could work well for the game’s general laid back approach and younger appeal. Yet, while I rarely struggled to understand how to complete the puzzles, I did find that the awkward execution and somewhat illogical solutions felt out of place. Not only did it pull my head out of holiday mode, but it also made me think twice about actually recommending this adorable looking game to my youngest daughter.
The reason for this is that there’s a certain demand for input dexterity that almost felt like lazy solutions for otherwise simple tasks. For a common example, sprint-jumping towards a ledge on the other side of the room would need to be executed at an awkward angle or placing a stone block with fly-away ragdoll physics on a tiny platform that quickly moves on command across a void based on my jump input. One of the more frustrating moments was trying to measure the camera to line up jump attempts on rotating glowing orbs in 3D space. Often, it tended to feel like I was aiming to break the game’s mechanics in order to solve the task, only to realize that these were the general method in which to actually solve them.
For most, such situations probably won’t even come across as an issue and, for what it’s worth, The Touryst is a very polished game in regards to its presentation and style. The framerate is incredibly fluid and consistent and the wonderfully vibrant visuals look like they can be pulled from the screen and take pride of place on a mantlepiece. It’s yet another example of Shin’en being very clever with Nintendo’s hardware with fantastic lighting effects and no loading times whatsoever. What’s even more impressive is that The Touryst is only a quarter of a gig in size. Making it not only an affordable holiday but also a very travel light one. Just remember to bear in mind that it is more of a weekend trip, with only 6-8 hours of gameplay depending on your experience.
With The Touryst, it’s nice to see Shin’en Multimedia maintain their technical quality while flying in at a different angle in gameplay and mood. Besides the out of place design choices in regards to how the puzzle elements are handled, The Touryst is a decent break from reality that provides adorable and light busywork for the thumbs. It sure is a pretty place to mooch around in and will undoubtedly please those who may be looking to carry on stretching out that The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening feeling.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Shin’en Multimedia