The Touryst (Switch) review
"This game only makes me want another StarTropics installment, and that's not fair."
Game ratings exist on a subjective spectrum, often condensed down to a number that represents how much the reviewer would recommend a title. Some people view that as an appraisal of an offering's quality, but that's not entirely correct. I can't judge a game for how much hard work went into it or the craftsmanship behind its coding because I wasn't part of the development team. I can only relay what I experienced myself, and whether or not I give a game my stamp of approval.
I don't often go into the basics of reviewing, but I feel it's warranted here. You might peer at the bottom and see my rating for The Touryst sits at a 3.5, which sounds like something that's “good but flawed.” And really, that's not quite correct. The game is quite good, actually, and doesn't sport many glaring flaws. It's just that it's “only good” and not amazing or great. It's hard to give more than a 3.5's worth of recommendation to a title that sits in that awkward part of the spectrum.
You see, there's plenty to appreciate here, especially in presentation. Its visual style might remind of you 3D Dot Game Heroes, resembling 3D depictions of super-deformed sprites. On top of that, the experience fully captures the beauty of tropical resorts, with bright colors, gorgeous sunsets, and brilliantly lit beaches. Even in motion, the action remains smooth and appealing, almost never slowing down. It all fits the game's theme and tone perfectly, as this is a vibrant, tropical getaway-inspired puzzle-platformer with a boatload of extra goodies on offer.
Basically, you play a tourist visiting different tropical islands, some of which are inspired by real life locations, using made-up names like Hawayy and Fyjy. You begin on a rudimentary vacation beach that sports a massive temple of sorts. After a bit of scouring, you find an entrance to the place and complete some basic puzzles, all of which culminates in a simple boss encounter. And yes, that boss is also just another puzzle, as this title features no combat.
Finishing up the dungeon sets you on a bigger mission: to locate a few artifacts scattered throughout the islands. From here, money becomes an integral part of the experience. You learn to nab any coins you find lying around, whether they're locked in cupboards or stashed atop trees. With each gold piece you secure, you come closer to affording a new skill (e.g. double-jump, running charge, etc.), an event item, or a brochure that unlocks yet another isle to check out.
Each area comes with its own vibe and set of side quests, the completion of which typically lands you additional cash. For instance, one land features a dance floor covered with patrons who look bored to tears, mainly because the music isn't bumping enough. A brief check of the surroundings shows you there are things you can do to liven up the party, such as turning on fog machines or plugging in speakers. Another quest involves locating scrolls hidden on each island, taking them to a museum curator who pays a small sum for each.
There's quite a bit of collecting found throughout the experience, actually. One guy wants you to take pictures of dungeons so he can create postcards, and he forks over some dough for each photo. Another runs an art gallery, and he needs portraits of various characters found throughout the region. He'll give you a clue as to which one he wants, and you have to supply him with the goods. Of course, this lands you even more money...
Here's the thing, though: side quests comprise a significant chunk of the experience, but some of them are not up to scratch. In one instance, you have a drumming mini-game that's so simple it's nearly forgettable. As is standard for such challenges, you time drum beats as music progresses, with each thump popping up on a moving line. However, the segment itself is over-easy, coming across as a tacked-on activity. In another, you don a striped shirt so you can kick soccer goals. The only issue here is the aiming mechanism is a bit wonky, and sometimes the balls don't fly precisely where the arrows point.
However, those issues shouldn't overshadow some of the better moments, like entering a surfing competition and scoring by pulling off tricks without wiping out. Or beating a nerd's high scores at an arcade filled with basic coin-ops. Sure, one of them is a dull driving game that's a bit like a futuristic Rad Racer, but another calls to mind cabinets like Bubble Bobble, where you negotiate platforms while avoiding cute enemies. The one next to it is an Arkanoid knockoff that's also quite fun.
Ultimately, the mini-games you play come with the simplest of functions, and don't come across as anything more than a distraction, even though the campaign requires you to complete a certain number of them before completion.
Here's the thing: Touryst is incredibly varied, but few of its moments really stands out as than “just good.” The ruins you explore consist of your basic, Zelda-like fare, except more abbreviated. Yeah, the dungeons on offer here sport some terrific challenges that test your 3D platforming skills and problem solving abilities, but each level is so brief that it leaves you wanting more. One stage revolves around using your charge technique to super-jump across wide gorges, often resulting in you falling to your doom and beginning the room over. However, you only complete a few of these chambers before the gauntlet ends.
Even some of the boss encounters leave something to be desired, with only one really standing out as truly difficult. In that fight, a snake made of stone blocks attempts to prevent you from throwing bricks onto particular portions of the floor by slithering erratically and knocking the rocks out of place after you toss them. There is a particular solution to this one, and once you figure it out the segment seems rather meek.
The game never ventures beyond its warm, relaxing mood. Some folks will desire that over the stressful design of other adventure games, while others will see this title as an average palate cleanser. The Touryst doesn't come with many flaws and it offers a lot of fair diversions. However, it plays its own concept too safely to be considered anything more than “just good.”
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (January 21, 2024)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
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