Quirky, cute, and challenging. Not many people would say those three descriptors marry together well, yet Fireart Games’ Tohu is determined to prove this is a winning trifecta. This is an accessible game for new and returning fans of puzzle games to enjoy, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’re going to have an easy journey ahead of you – Tohu might have cuteness by the bucketload, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to complete.
Puzzle games aren’t my go-to choice of video game – as far as entertainment goes, I want an RPG that packs an emotional and action-filled punch. Nevertheless, I will, every now and then, attempt to dust off the cogs of my brain to get them ticking overtime. Boy oh boy, did they get a workout with Tohu!
I don’t wish to make this game sound difficult, because it’s likely that avid point & click fans will breeze through its levels but, for a novice like me, there were hair pulling moments. One such occasion came in the second world of the game, when you go to visit Juncle. It’s no word of a lie when I say I cussed all the way through to its resolution. A resolution which feels ridiculously obvious… once you’re made aware of it. Up until that point, however, needing to trap fireflies in a glass bowl doesn’t feel especially obvious.
This highly specific style of puzzle solving, which borders on obscure, would make sense if the whole game worked like this, but that’s not the case. In the same level – not too long after catching the fireflies – you simply have to shoot creatures into various holes on the ground. Each hole has a symbol associated with it, which you’d think would mean you have to get them in a specific order, right? Wrong. Just shoot ‘em and they’ll land wherever.
The puzzles swing from infuriatingly difficult to so easy that they almost seem pointless.
For the moments when you need help, there’s a hint system to provide aid… or at least that’s what I assume it does because I got so annoyed at trying to unlock hints that I gave up. Yes, you read that right: you have to play a mini puzzle to unlock puzzle hints, which just feels like a deliberately cruel form of punishment by the devs. Especially so when the mini game is more difficult than it should be thanks to its excruciatingly specific timing.
Despite this fact, however, I found my journey through the weird and wonderful worlds of Tohu a beautifully whimsical one. It wasn’t always pleasant, and there’s plenty of instances when I screamed into the void with annoyance, yet it still felt worth it when I finally fixed the Sacred Machine.
Moving away from the confusion that some of its puzzles create, it’s time to analyse the story of the game. It’s a simple one that revolves around The Girl (yes, that’s the main character’s name), who is trying to fix the Sacred Machine after a sneaky little figure tampers with it. This villain does remind me of the annoying egg thieves from Spyro, but I found the story a little lacklustre. There’s enough there to propel you forward, but not in a way that I felt compelled to play. If I’m totally honest, it was sheer determination to not let a game beat me that drove my actions.
Again, I appreciate this is very specific to me and so others might find the story more enticing, however, while that is certainly a possibility, don’t go thinking you’re about to be immersed into a sprawling world filled with lore. When you watch the trailer, it’s easy to see why you might think there’s more of a story to discover; the puzzles aren’t showcased as the main facet of gameplay here. It’s only when you start playing the title for yourself (or reading a few reviews) that you see where the balance of the game truly lies.