There’s something about photography games at the moment, from Bugsnax to the return of Pokémon Snap; taking photographs in video games is a popular thing at the moment. TOEM seems to have some Pokémon influences as you’re playing a character, named Toem, who’s leaving their small town for the first time on an adventure. But that’s about as far as the influences go.
Armed with a camera and a second-hand pair of sandals, Toem leaves their town via bus on a photography expedition. However, to travel to new locations, you need to ride a bus and to be eligible to go to new places, you need to earn stamps by completing good deeds for towns citizens. Fittingly for a budding photographer, the majority of these tasks will require you to take pictures of things.
The demo I played lasted around 45 minutes, and these tasks ranged from simple to slightly more confusing. Sometimes you’ll get an easy to understand list that asks you to take a picture of a tree and an axe where the hard part is simply finding those things. Other times you’re given a more vague description, like when you’re tasked with snapping a picture of a small army and finding what precisely that means. There’s also some non-photography challenges, like when a resident asks you to find their missing sock, which is being held hostage by someone as a prize for taking part in a cup game.
For the most part, TOEM is all about taking photos for your amusement or solving puzzles and completing good deeds. There is also wildlife to find that can either be sitting on the side trees or behind a mini-puzzle. These creatures are optional but tracked within your journal, so for anyone who loves to 100% games (like this writer), you’ll be double-checking every corner of TOEM.
Unlike most other photography-related games, TOEM has a black-and-white art style, but the game uses the art style to its advantage by having unique and robust designed characters as well as environments. There’s also a minimalist design, especially when using the camera itself; there are big buttons and simple to understand controls that don’t distract you from the viewfinder.