I find it is exceedingly rare to find a game whose spirit makes me want to recommend it in spite of it having some really obvious flaws.
Publisher: Versus Evil
Release: May 11, 2015
Toren is a Brazilian 3D adventure platformer with some puzzle elements thrown into the mix. You play as Moonchild, a girl tasked with climbing a bare and lonely tower and slaying a dragon. There really is not a large amount that can be said about the gameplay, as it is very basic. That said, there are a few interesting features included in the game.
As you play the game, you begin with Moonchild as a baby and age as you progress through the story. Each growth stage represents different elements in the story as well as different gameplay elements. Baby form is pretty much just a movement tutorial, but child form introduces the platforming aspect while teenaged Moonchild marks the beginning of combat and larger puzzle elements.
Like I mentioned earlier, the gameplay is very basic and often extremely easy. The only time you’ll have any real difficulty in the platforming is in occasional segments where the camera is less than ideal. In fact pretty much all difficulty is chalked up to clunky controls and poor camera angles. I found myself dying a few times simply because it took a while for the game to register that I was close enough to a statue to grab it and prevent getting blown off the platform.
While at some point Moonchild gets a sword, there is very little combat. Occasionally, you will come across a pack of little demon things, but you can simply run passed them and ignore them altogether. The sword really only comes in handy for the “boss battles” against the game’s antagonist, a dragon. I write “boss battles” in quotations because the fights are actually puzzles rather than actual combat. These puzzles are actually pretty fun, but like the platforming, they are not difficult.
In short, Toren’s gameplay alone is fairly unimpressive; however, it isn’t necessarily terrible, rather it does a great job of conveying the overarching feel of the game. The gameplay works in tandem with the game’s other aspect to create something more akin to a work of art than a standard video game.
Toren’s graphics are quite possibly the best of its assets. Interestingly, I can say this while at the same time admitting that the graphics are not amazing in the traditional sense. Instead of high-resolution textures and character models, Toren focuses on making each and every scene look like a Brazilian style painting.
The use of bold and vibrant color is such a massively strong asset in this game that I was simply blown away by it. I truly struggle to find anything quite like it in the game industry.
I really don’t know how much more I can say about the art style, but it alone drove me to run another play-through just so I can take about a million screenshots.
While I do enjoy gushing about the art style, looking at Toren from a technical perspective is quite a bit less impressive. There are quite a few awkward moments in the Toren’s animations. The cut scenes stutter quite a bit, especially in the first few, and there tend to be really awkward cuts while the camera pans around new areas. All in all, the art style is amazing, but the animation could use some work.
The Story is extremely confusing at first. As you explore new areas and enter Moonchild’s dreams, short bursts of narrative will scroll on screen and give you tiny tidbits of story. Since the dreams are optional and some are easy to miss, you could end up a bit lost. It makes some of the storytelling optional, which is nice in many games, but it can also leave you very confused.
Fortunately, the most important details of the story become evident as you finish the game. Also, as you progress, flashbacks of Moonchild listening to the old man in the beginning of the game will drop hints about what the story is all about.
The quality of the story itself is quite nice. It feels as if you are playing an old fairy tale.
The music is very pretty. In many places, you are left with the eerie silence of being in such a vacant place that the tower is. The sound give a fair majority of the game the same sort of feeling that one might get from Shadow of the Colossus or one of the dungeons in a Legend of Zelda game. The more intense moments are often accompanied by very beautiful music with vocals that I cannot understand. Finally, the music that plays during the end credits are great at delivering chills down your spine, especially when paired with the ending cinematic that makes everything make sense.
There is a minimal amount of voice acting. It is pretty much just limited to the sounds Moonchild makes when she swings her sword or jumps and the lessons that the old men tells her periodically throughout the game. I think the voice acting is in Portuguese, so I could not understand it, but the voice itself was low and ominous, matching the theme of the game quite well.
Toren currently costs about $8 on steam, which is a pretty cheap price; however the game itself is also extremely short. Even having played through it twice, I’ve only clocked in about 6 hours. It isn’t a difficult game by any mean either, so if you are looking for a game that’s going to last you a while, then unfortunately this one won’t work for you. That said, $8 is not really going to set anybody back to far either, so it may still be worth splurging into this game.
Toren is an absolutely gorgeous video game, and it is personally my first time experiencing a Brazilian video game like this. It almost feels more like a work of art than an actual video game. I do not want to overemphasize its beauty, though, because it does lack quite a bit in terms of gameplay. The platforming and puzzles are really easy, and the game itself is very short, which I think is a great shame. But holy crap is it pretty. Essentially, it is a great game to get into as a short experience, but it isn’t something that will likely keep you entertained for more than an evening, so for those who are specifically looking for more bang for their buck, I regretfully recommend you look elsewhere. Anyone else who is even remotely interested in Toren should definitely pick it up though, even if you have to wait for a small discount.
+Beautiful art style
-Some animation problems
-Far too short