Toren Review (PS4)
Toren from the get go looks like a close cousin of ICO that has been brought to the PS4. If you have watched any trailers then the art style and feel of the game instantly brings back nostalgic plays of ICO and makes you want to jump into a new world of beautiful art and intrigue all over again.
Toren is a fantasy based world where you play as the central protagonist in a giant tower. What you’re saving this time isn’t a girl, but instead the whole world. The tower you are in was made by a decadent civilisation with the purpose of reaching the sky and capturing a deity. These men succeeded, capturing the Moon and soul binding it with a young girls, who was then cursed to remain in the tower forever so that the men could harness her power. Eventually the Sun became enraged by the vile deed and the greed of the man and placed a curse on the earth, clearing the skies and forcing the world into permanent daylight. This caused the planet to be largely uninhabited by humans, whereas dragons and other strange creatures roamed freely.
You play as the Moonchild. The only way to return life on earth to how it once was is to leave and return to the sky. To achieve this you must ascend the tower and defeat the great black dragon. However, within the first 2 minutes of the game the dragon turns you into stone. Death is not the end though, and you are reincarnated and begin you life a new as a baby.
An ancient wizard, the last survivor of the men who built the tower, helps to nurture you towards your goal. Now you can walk around after a few little cutscenes and you can actually make some progress by solving small puzzles or go on the hunt for your lost magic sword. At this point the art style and gentle music is captivating, the entire game is a spectacle. Each little cutscene shows you the detail and expanse of the world you are in and the expressiveness each area was given.
However, after about 20 minutes the sheen of the art rubs off a little as you get to explore more of the puzzle areas. Under the glamour of the lovely art and environment you start to notice things that can’t be unseen. For example: the lighting was done by JJ Abrams on a budget, lens flare constantly, everywhere, and always badly done. Beams of light appear out of cracks in walls and through windows, but the resolution is so low that they look terrible. Around the edge of the screen is a constant distortion that is to add ‘artistic’ effect, but it becomes distracting and nauseating quickly. Unfortunately the music loses its appeal too, as it becomes barely noticeable and so infrequent you could just turn it off and not notice the difference.
Ideally the gameplay would be able to battle through those downturns in the style. Unfortunately it does not. The camera controls are unintuitive to non-existent; the movement is sluggish with frequent bouts of getting stuck on scenery and glitching through floors; the gaps for jumping ledges are either a twenty foot jump or a one foot fall off and grab the ledge deal.
Solving puzzles is menial. A child might find these puzzles challenging, but if you have any years of experience playing games behind you then they are just trivial. Also a pet peeve is a god damn invisible floor challenge, those things are nothing but frustrating. Add in those nice cutscenes that show you a glorious world, every few minutes and un-skippable, with a wizard whose language is whispering mumbles and you start to lose will to play anymore. Not to mention the game text that is all poetic and fanciful, in a cursive thin black font with a white glare background which hides some of the text, making it illegible.
I should stop now, I’ve dealt this thing enough blows. If you want an art piece to run around in then get Toren. You will enjoy the world, so long as you ignore the few poor textures. If you want an actual game then go play ICO back on the PS2. Toren should really be on a PS2, not a PS4. One last redeeming quality; easy trophies if you grit your teeth.
5 reincarnations out of 10