Review: The Touryst (Switch)

Welcome to paradise.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 12/04/2019 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Varied gameplay; stunning aesthetic; excellent sound design; narrative is spartan but compelling; lots of islands to explore
Poison Mushroom for...
Some puzzles are frustratingly obtuse; the game has had some issues with crashing for some players

Shin’en Multimedia isn’t a household name, but the Munich-based developer has been around since 1999, churning out a number of games for different Nintendo platforms. Iridion 3D on Game Boy Advance, Jett Rocket on Wii, and FAST RMX on Nintendo Switch are just a handful of titles that the studio has been responsible for over the years. Shin’en’s output isn’t prolific, but every console generation, the developer delivers a handful of quality games. What’s more, Shin’en isn’t afraid to dabble in different genres and is always pushing the graphical limitations of every console the studio creates for. In the case of The Touryst, Shin’en has crafted a 3D adventure game that’s equal parts whimsical and mysterious.

The Touryst’s gorgeous voxel art style will immediately jump out at players the first time it’s booted up. Everything is rendered to look like it’s been hewn from cubes and blocks. Imagine 8-bit pixel art exploded into the third dimension, or a more refined take on Minecraft, and that’s The Touryst. Shin’en also mixes in some interesting use of blokeh, a Japanese photography technique that artistically blurs the out-of-focus parts of an image. The aesthetic perfectly complements the tone of the game— The Touryst is about being playful and curious, and each of the islands in the game is designed to get the player combing every nook and cranny. Like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening on Nintendo Switch, the toy-like quality of the overworld here just begs to be explored.

The performance in The Touryst never skips a beat— the game runs at 60fps and hits 1080p while docked, 720p in handheld mode. As usual, Shin’en takes Nintendo’s hardware and works visual magic. It’s not just that the art style is beautiful, but it’s all rendered to match. One of the most pleasing bits of design revolves around the employment of music and sound in The Touryst. When searching the island exteriors, there’s a keen balance between segments of silence and soundtrack, all interspersed with the delightful noises one would associate with being in a tropical oasis. The waves slap the shore, the wind blows, and all of it is soothing and pleasing to the ear. Context sensitive pieces of music work very well to either heighten the sense of danger in boss battles, or provide ambiance while rooting through a monument. There’s even a “greatest hits” collection of music from other Shin’en games to listen to.

The Touryst’s narrative is spartan, but in a good way. When the eponymous tourist lands on Monument Island, he’s immediately drawn into a large web of intrigue. Scattered across the various islands are monuments (think dungeons) that contain special cores. An old man sets the tourist to finding them all, which gets the adventure rolling. This underlying mystery surrounding the monuments and cores fuels the storyline, but players are also free to spend their time laying about and doing nothing. It’s never ignored during the quest that the player is on vacation and The Touryst offers numerous opportunities to kick back and relax.

The tourist can interact with a number of different elements in the environment including lying down on beach chairs and turning on fans rather than seek out the cores. There are also a range of fun diversions to partake in, like a tribal rhythm mini game, surfing competition, and an arcade full of Shin’en takes on classic games. Players can even go spelunking through a mine to find diamonds! There’s so much to do and see beyond the core quest, but Shin’en doesn’t treat any of it as perfunctory. Many sidequests are connected to these activities and players are rewarded for engaging in them.

The tasks actually connected to finding the cores revolve around some incredible set pieces. A downed airplane overgrown with plants, enormous stone statues, and a deep dive into the ocean are just a handful of what’s in store for players. Every island has its own theme that ties in with real-world spots like Hawaii (Hawayy) and Fiji (Fijy). The result are beaches of black sand, craggy rocks jutting out of the sea, and more. On some of the islands are monuments which contain labyrinthine interiors filled with puzzles and traps. In that way, they’re not unlike the dungeons in Zelda, but there’s never any real sense of danger. The tourist can’t die, not permanently, at least. There are some boss encounters that get somewhat hairy, but other than that the player is allowed to tackle all of these challenges in relative comfort. It’s a nice change of pace from the average platformer.

There are only a couple of flaws in The Touryst’s roughly-eight hours of gameplay, but none are game-breaking. Some of the puzzles and boss battles have solutions that are not easily sussed out. One such example requires the player to put a boss to sleep, but there’s nothing that indicates or hints at how to do this— I ultimately finished the encounter without putting the beast to bed and was frustrated beyond measure the whole time. The same can be said of a handful of the To-Dos where I found myself perplexed where to go next or with whom to speak. Still, the solutions eventually manifest themselves through trial and error, but these small qualms are worth mentioning nonetheless. The final issue I encountered was the game crashed on me once, but thankfully I didn’t lose any progress.

The Touryst is a weekend trip turned into a video game. Its secrets compel the player forward but at a leisurely, soothing pace. The homage to Mario (brown hair, mustache, red shirt, blue pants, brown shoes— need I say more?) are unmistakable, and so too is Shin’en’s apparent love for the sort of adventure games that Nintendo’s plumber helped pioneer. No piece of gameplay is wasted, so no piece of gameplay is redundant or filler. It was an absolute joy entering into this world, a world teeming with life and activities and things to find. Shin’en made waves with FAST RMX and will hopefully do so again with The Touryst. This is a real gem that every Switch owner should seek out and download.

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