Over the years, the point-and-click genre has led me into an array of adventures spanning all sorts of fantastical worlds – like those of Broken Age, Deponia and The Inner Wind. They’re usually geared up to test the ability to solve problems using both orthodox and unorthodox methods as well, with inventory-based problems at the forefront of proceedings. The point is, the developers at Fireart Games have a fairly big task to ensure their offering in TOHU is fresh, original and most importantly, enjoyable. So, I’m off to a world of fish planets to discover whether it’s a worthy addition, or not.
Once you realise a selection of weird and wonderful fish planets are on the agenda, TOHU is clearly on the right track. It even presents a smattering of exciting puzzles, however the adventure is derailed by issues of a technical nature and mechanics that aren’t quite up to scratch. Nevertheless, TOHU might still be able to win you over.
In TOHU you play as The Girl who resides on one of the aforementioned fish planets and seemingly lives a pleasant life. That is until one day, a mischievous character turns up out of nowhere and damages the Sacred Engine, which powers everything. The Girl makes it her job to find the tools necessary for fixing it, and so off she goes on a journey around the neighbouring planets.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that storytelling isn’t exactly a main draw here, but it lays down a satisfactory foundation for what follows. It gives you a reason to visit various settlements built upon the backs of sea creatures and exploring these environments enables the charming, child-friendly artwork to shine. There are some really creative designs in regards to the characters you’ll meet along the way; the likes of which have seldom been seen before. The only disappointment is the fact their personalities are rather restricted by the minimal amount of conversing that takes place.
Each planet traversed essentially plays host to a self-contained level with just a handful of areas to wander around. Through clicking using the cursor, the little girl can roam, interact with things, pick up items of interest and climb if such action is deemed appropriate. What’s quite neat is her ability to transform into a robot named Cubus, who really comes in handy for feats of strength. Determining which persona to use is nice and straightforward, much like how the majority of the inventory-based problems are.
You see, the little backpack doesn’t often get very full or cluttered, making it easier to determine the items best suited for solutions. There are exceptions though, with a couple of the sequence-related puzzles feeling like pure guesswork. For the rest of the time it’s clear and not too far outside the box, with examples including scissors to cut some flowers and a special mask to wear when navigating through a foggy area. Should you struggle to be able to figure anything out, there’s a good hint system in place that can point you in the right direction. The amount of these types of conundrums is just about right, ensuring they don’t become a chore and instead help create a decent balance with the mini-games.
TOHU absolutely thrives on the sheer number of mini-game style puzzles, bringing in a variety of classics alongside new ideas. Remember Pipemania from way back when? Well there’s a spin on that as well as a mirror manipulating laser beam affair, a jigsaw involving glass pieces, and a clever predicament akin to the ‘fox, chicken and bag of grain’ riddle. These are the bread and butter of most point-and-click adventures in one form or another. The folks at Fireart Games do have a few original concepts too, like shooting mini-games, a reflex-testing variation on whack-a-mole, and a hypnotic spinning session. Unfortunately, the mechanics don’t hold up well for these more action-oriented activities and the shooting segment in the swamp is especially frustrating as things fail to fall into place.
And, sadly, that’s not the end of the complaints. Not once, not twice, but thrice – yes, three times – TOHU has bugged out, rendering further progress impossible. That means starting over from scratch, which nobody wants, or being lucky to have a save file old enough that it’s prior to the issue arising, but recent enough so you only have to replay a little bit. This has occurred in both the early levels and the later ones, and it’s really disheartening when you’ve no clue what causes it.
All in all, TOHU is a charming little point-and-click adventure on Xbox with its own identity due to the lovely detail in the art and the fitting soundtrack that captures the atmosphere of each planet pretty well. The balance between the standard inventory puzzles and mini-games is ideal for delivering the fun factor, but there’s no fun in game-breaking moments and they really let it down. Furthermore, it would’ve been nice to have a more captivating narrative to go with the intriguing setting, and less of the action mini-games.
It would be sensible to await an update of some sort, but hey, it’s your money to spend. If you are prepared to take the risk that you could encounter a baffling bug at any point, TOHU is otherwise a good addition to the genre.