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192902753_Tohulogo.png.a58a25fda65e29086cd04524140afb9e.pngPoint and click adventure games are pretty much the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mainstay of video game design. For as old as the genre is, the core gameplay design has endured with pretty minimal changes over the years. Instead, modern games in the genre tend to highlight unique settings and characters to really sell the experience, and there might not be a better example of that than TOHU. Delightfully surreal, the game is as beautiful as it is bizarre.
You play as The Girl and her robotic alter ego, Cubus. The duo live on a floating fish world (to clarify, I don't mean the world is inhabited by fish, I mean the world is a fish) filled with odd creatures like lightbulb bugs and oversized flora. One day a mysterious robed figure starts wreaking havoc and damages the Sacred Engine, which sounds pretty important. The Girl takes off on an adventure to repair the engine by traveling to nearby worlds to find help. It's a wonderfully weird setting that doesn't demand any deep thought from the player—why is anything in this world the way it is? Who knows! That's not important here—and just wandering through the environment is a magical and odd experience. There is some light narration and occasional short dialogue, but otherwise the storytelling is pretty sparse. Ultimately that doesn't feel like a problem though; the scenery is the star of the show here, not the story.
Like any classic point and click adventure game, you'll need to solve all manner of environmental puzzles to progress. Sometimes you may need to collect items and bring them from one area to another, sometimes a solution is as simple as clicking around a bit on screen. TOHU has a solid variety of puzzles that will always keep you on your toes. Thanks to the surreal setting, the strange solutions also feel oddly at home—of course you need to launch mole-like creatures out of a bubblegum machine to unlock a door, how else would you open it? The Girl and Cubus also have separate strengths: The Girl can climb objects and talk to characters while Cubus has immense strength and can lift heavy objects. Since you can instantaneously swap between the two, it's easy to explore both of their skill sets to solve puzzles.
One of TOHU's biggest strengths is keeping the puzzle solutions inventive but not insane. Part of what helps is that each region of the game is actually quite small, so you don't run into that common problem of point and click adventures where you collect and carry around a dozen items across huge environments, never sure when exactly you'll need to use each one. Instead, many puzzles in TOHU are limited to the immediate area/screen, so puzzle-solving never gets exhausting. That's also not to say the puzzles are too easy in TOHU. You'll still run into some headscratchers, but you don't have to exhaustively explore every illogical idea that ran through the developers' heads in order to solve them. Despite the surreal setting, the puzzle solutions are fairly logical and understandable once you've located the proper items or interactive objects.
If you do get stumped though, TOHU features a handy in-game hint system. You'll need to complete a minor lock-picking mini-game to use it, but these hints are mercifully direct so they're quite valuable if you need them.
One of the only minor downsides to the game is the control scheme when docked. Moving a cursor around the screen using a control stick never feels particularly smooth, and that's no different in TOHU. It certainly doesn't impede the game though, it's just not quite an ideal control scheme. Also the game's relatively short length, around 5 hours or so, may seem brief to some players, though the brisk pacing never feels rushed and actually suits the game's puzzle progression quite well.
The presentation is easily the highlight of TOHU. The artwork is just gorgeously weird—even if you didn't have to take the time to explore what you can click on or pick up you'd probably want to spend time just taking in the scenery. Every detail of the environment is delightfully strange and feels like a beautifully realized quirky children's story. It all looks pretty wonderful in animation as well. The stylish visuals are matched by a lovely, atmospheric soundtrack that is moody and airy—a perfect complement to the surreal art style.
TOHU is a charming point and click adventure that finds the sweet spot for puzzles that are both challenging and engaging. Its brief length and small environments prove to be its biggest strengths, as puzzles are never weighed down by juggling dozens of items across multiple scenes. A somewhat simple story doesn't diminish the beauty of this surreal world and its bizarre inhabitants. Point and click adventure fans looking for a short and satisfying game would do well to give TOHU a try.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Cubes
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