REVIEW | The Touryst

I am ON Holiday

Seemingly out of nowhere, German developer Shin‘en Multimedia have dropped one of this year’s biggest surprises on Switch. An action-adventure puzzler like no other, The Touryst is a delight from start to finish.

Arriving by boat on a paradise island as a moustached David Harbour lookalike, you find yourself with no direction and an island to simply explore. And why wouldn’t you? We’ve all arrived on holiday and found ourselves with a range of options for how you spend your time – no one tells you what to do, so why should anyone here? You’re free to just hop onto a sun-lounger and enjoy the calming sounds of the waves and the birds should you wish. But of course this is a videogame, so there’s more to be done. 

“It’s important to mention just how utterly gorgeous this game looks.”

You very quickly find yourself in your first Monument, the game’s mysterious dungeon-like structures that contain some light puzzle and boss-like action, as The Touryst evokes that sense of adventure your find yourself with on holiday. Who hasn’t visited an ancient historical site and imagined themselves discovering a hidden-passage or secret previously lost to time? Or is it just me that does that? Either way, from here the game opens up to a series of islands – each has a distinct theme based on a real world equivalent (I won’t spoil them as discovering them for yourself is part of the fun) and contains a Monument you have to work out how to get in to, along with an array of people to meet who will all have side quests they’ll need your help with. Setting foot on a new island is a delight as you immediately start exploring and taking in the sights and sounds.

Pretty soon you’ll be island-hopping back and forth as you gain new abilities or find an item someone is after on another island. Along the way on your adventure you’ll be presented with a surprising amount of activities to partake in. Surfing, football, canoeing, caving and many more; your character jumps into them all with relish. Of course he does; you’re on holiday! That’s what you do right? Throw yourself in to trying new things.

There’s a fun variety of mostly well-executed gameplay, though unfortunately it does rival Luigi’s Mansion 3 for this year’s ‘most annoying boat handling’ award (thankfully you spend less time boating than Luigi is forced to.) It’s a short game, taking me around eight hours to see almost everything, but it packs so much in that it doesn’t leave you feeling at all short-changed.

It’s important to mention just how utterly gorgeous this game looks. The 3D-pixel art graphics are clean, sharp and vibrant. Everything is infused with bright Mediterranean sunlight. It sparkles. A bokeh effect softens the edges wonderfully and the whole thing runs at a locked 60 frames a second. It’s not just technically excellent, there’s an artistic choice here that I really appreciated. The understated music and sound effects also suit the game perfectly.

In its appearance, it reminds me a lot of Nintendo’s own Link’s Awakening remake. Except this looks and runs better. It’s a very Nintendo game all round, in particular a very Zelda game. There’s the overworld, the side quests, the dungeons and bosses. Sadly, some of the locations here do feel a bit under-developed. I found myself wishing there were one or two more buildings to visit on the islands to flesh out the world a bit more. Similarly the game is packed full of charming and amusing characters to meet, but some deeper character interactions would have been nice.

In addition to the mini-games, exploring and fetch quests, the Monuments are host to some great puzzle rooms that present some unique ideas. Even though most aren’t that difficult, it’s nice to be presented with some new tests and a few took me longer than I’d like to admit in pondering the solution. It’s satisfying when they click, although some puzzles were a little unclear in what they are asking of you.

In highlighting what I wish this game did differently I have to acknowledge that none of my comments are really criticisms of the game; it pretty much nails what it sets out to achieve. I just selfishly wish there was more of what I enjoyed so much; more expansive locations to explore, more puzzles to solve, more characters to be charmed by. It’s too easy to forget this is the work of a small team though, such is the level of polish.

The game’s ending is not to be missed, and I’m hugely excited to see where Shin’en go next with this. The world they’ve built is so good that it would be tragic if we were deprived of a sequel that develops the ideas further. Releasing the game in darkest winter was a masterstroke – it’s the perfect time to grab your Switch, curl up someplace warm and escape on a virtual holiday. Like all the best holidays, you end the game wishing you could stay for longer, enjoying its magic as much as possible before having to return back to the everyday mundane.

Rating: 4 out of 5.