Wandering around in a single, wet, slightly stinky sock looking for ants to photograph isn’t how I expected Toem to lure me in, but here we are. This hand-drawn, monochrome adventure from Swedish developer Something We Made is a game where you solve puzzles with your camera. It’s not complicated in its execution but offers some brilliantly weird challenges to work through that bring a touch of Where’s Waldo to its gameplay.
Ultimately, you’re embarking from your Nana’s house to see Toem – a natural phenomenon only visible from the top of a mountain. But, in order to get there and bring a snapshot home for Nana, you’ll need to take a few bus rides and explore what lies between you and that peak. In the smallholding surrounding your home, you’ll learn that bus tickets are earned by completing small tasks for others. In Toem, kindness literally pays.
During the game’s four or so hours, you’ll work your way through a city, forest, harbor, and the mountain itself. Each area acts as a kind of hub world, with photography challenges to be completed within that area. There are a few that require traveling across multiple zones, but they’re mostly self-contained experiences that force you to explore each hub thoroughly if you want to tick off all your quests.
You’ll want to explore them too. Each area is inspired by Scandinavia, and from the moment you step off the bus you’re lured in to discover what you’ll find. The characters are brilliantly weird, whether you’re reuniting a family of camera-shy porcupines, inspiring a fisherman to create a beautiful melody, or finding a spot for a date with a ghost, the little stories you’ll find in Toem will easily bring a smile to your face.
Most of the quests you’ll undertake will involve snapping a photograph of something and taking it back to show them. Taking photos is strangely satisfying, with an easy-to-use snapping mechanic, and various upgrades to unlock for your camera including a tripod for excellent selfie opportunities. You can opt to see photo ops and useful objects highlighted through your camera viewfinder if you’d like, which is particularly helpful for the slightly more interesting requests you’ll get. In each area, you’ll be tasked with finding specific things in the world, like “a wall of lights” and some clues more cryptic than others. There’s many an AH-HA! moment to be had when you figure it out though.
Through it all there’s a wonderful puzzle balance, offering some really straightforward objectives that play well against those that are more obtuse. I had fun playing with my partner as we both tried to spot the various photo ops and grab all the stamps possible in each world. Learning what’s on offer in each hub world is part of the enjoyment too, as figuring out why something odd you spotted earlier is pivotal for a later quest is utterly rewarding.
Narratively it’s gentle and sweet, with some touching little moments to be found in amongst those that are slightly more bizarre. But it excels because it all comes together so well, and just taking photographs is slick, easy, and downright good fun. You can take photos of whatever and whenever you want to build out your personal album, with snaps of critters and creatures filling up your Compendium like a riff on Pokemon Snap with that collect ’em all mentality. I particularly love that there’s a Trophy for papping the pets of the development team and supporting staff in Toem’s world, with each one a named character to collect in your photo album.
Between the wonderfully weird little subquests and just snapping things in the world, you’ll be able to collect various items to create ridiculous outfits too – diving helmet, scarf, and climbing boots as an outfit, anyone? And that’s before I even mentioned the delightful soundtrack that pipes through your HikeLady – the game’s version of an old-fashioned WalkMan, complete with a collection of cassette tapes. You’ll earn new tapes for completing quests or wandering around a new area, and by the time the credits had rolled on Toem, I found myself just listening to the various tracks while sitting back with a cup of tea. Toem’s world is just such a joy to be a part of, even if I wish it had lasted just a little longer.
Toem is out now on Switch, PS5, and PC via Steam and Epic Games.