TOHU stars a little girl who has an alter ego of sorts named Cubus. The girl is the main role of the duo as she is able to interact with most objects. Cubus, on the other hand, is all about brawn and can lift and move heavy objects when needed. By swapping between these characters, players can solve different types of environmental puzzles.
TOHU is colorful while also not oozing with saturation. There is a visual balance here that is bright and pleasing while also offering detailed textures and shading. While not as flamboyant as the old Humongous Entertainment games, most creatures and objects in environments had little animations when clicked. The animations in general are well done and have a bit of cartoony flair to them. I appreciated that the girl would flex if something was too heavy, indicating I should use Cubus. Or Cubus would fail to crawl into a vent so I should use the girl. Otherwise, the characters would make a “uh-uh” noise to tell me that something was not possible.
Part of the premise is players get to explore different lands that are on the backs fish. This aquatic theme turned out to be very minor with very few visual elements to support it. Otherwise, the main design theme involves both a clashing and combination of nature and machinery. Machines are complex, disastrous, and visually overbearing. Nature, on the other hand, tends to be cleaner and involves balance and sequences. It is an interesting co-existence that I wish was explored more. The narrative suggested the machines are evil invaders that were taking over, yet I saw very little of this.
The story in TOHU is a scattered mess. The main plot involves a hooded antagonist who breaks the Sacred Engine the girl’s journey to stop them. This core plot is basic, but provides a reason to go on an adventure. The main problems I have are with the background lore. Some characters will describe the backstory for the islands, but this is often repeated information that also does not explain enough to establish a memorable story or characters.
Players start the game with a tutorial telling them to press a button to switch to Cubus. That is it. Who is Cubus? Why do they swap places with the girl? Are they they same character or separate? This is never expanded upon until the final cutscene of the game (which has other story inconsistencies too). Stories can be designed to be vague and up to interpretation. However, TOHU is clearly trying to tell a narrative with its dialogue scenes. Cubus and the girl, the main characters, only interact ONCE throughout the entire game outside the swap mechanics. This unexplored potential extends to other areas of the storytelling as well.
TOHU contains dialogue conversations. They pop up and cover the entire screen. Most of these conversations are unnecessary and convey so little. In the second area we see an old man run into his house in fear and lock the door behind him. The girl knocks on the door and gets no reply, but obviously needs to talk to this person. What is clearly conveyed is then reexplained to the player in a dialogue conversation with an addition of the lock using moles somehow. I feel many minor interactions could have been told purely through icons popping up in thought bubbles which is actually used at another point in the game.
This made me wonder, who is this game for? Who is the target audience? It might be aimed at younger kids as a first point-and-click experience. The puzzles included genre classics with most having straightforward solutions. However, there were a few logic puzzles and sequences with much higher difficulty. A complex closed circuit pipe puzzle and a timed stealth section come to mind. A difficult bamboo leaf puzzle made me open a guide for the solution (the author of which was equally frustrated with this one).
Obtuse solutions and difficult puzzles are not unheard of in the point-and-click genre and, aside from the few exceptions, these are certainly more accessible than classic Sierra games. TOHU does have the occasional “use everything on everything” mentality when it is unclear where to use something to progress. There is a built in hint system, though it couldn’t help me with the puzzle difficulty disparity. Having prior puzzle knowledge or having an adult around for younger kids is recommended.
The collectibles in this game are various insects to add to your collection. However, only specific bugs, even of the same species, count toward the collection. I understand why this is for ease of programming, but in practice it is arbitrary that only certain bugs on the screen are collectible despite looking identical.
Sound design was fine, although the audio balance seemed off with the few bits of spoken dialogue. The game only has a single slider for sound so either dialogue was too loud or too quiet with no good in-between. The interface has some problems as well, such as items rearranging in your bag when used or climbing spots being hard to click on occasionally.
I have many criticisms of TOHU, but I do not think it is a bad game. The charm of the animations and illustrations were the main aspect I enjoyed. I liked the concept of switching characters for different types of interactions and appreciated the unique animations per character. The puzzle difficulty curve was shaky at times with sudden time consuming puzzles where I was otherwise progressing quickly. Some areas involve backtracking, but this is usually quick and only between a scene or two.
All in all, I’d say TOHU ranks about average for me. It feels like a random collection of puzzles strung together with loose connections to your goals. I would recommend it if you haven’t played many games in the genre and like the art style. For experienced fans, this one does not offer enough challenging or unique puzzles to make it a must play title.
Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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- Beautiful artwork and animations
- Pleasant soundtrack
- Fun thematic elements and character designs
- Just the right length
- Some sound balancing issues
- A few frustratingly difficult logic puzzles
- Unexplored potential with its weak narrative and forgettable characters