A Foggy Collectathon
HIGH Peering over a city from its highest point is a sight to behold.
LOW The game relies more on visual prowess than mechanics and depth.
WTF There’s an awful lot of money just lying around.
3D collect-a-thon platformers are a rarity in 2021. Though titles like Banjo-Kazooie and Spyro popularized the genre in the ’90s, such design has seen a steady decline since then and most IPs have a difficult time staying afloat unless they star an Italian plumber. Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight aims to reignite the genre by focusing on atmosphere and tranquility rather than challenge. Though players will rightly be drawn in by its picturesque scenery, it feels bland and hollow overall.
When her airship is damaged sailing through a mysterious fog, protagonist Yukumo is stranded in a deserted riverside region called To-En. She is tasked by Kogara, a member of the cat-like Nezu Tribe, with gathering “sources of earth” to clear the mist and restore a series of cities to their formerly-bustling selves. On her journey, Yukumo will explore lush landscapes, tackle platforming challenges, and save civilizations from the fog.
In terms of presentation, composer Ujico creates a beautifully melodic and relaxing score resembling a strange but successful hybrid of Animal Crossing and a Studio Ghibli film while Developer Orbital Express has obviously poured plenty of resources into the graphics, and it certainly pays off. The cel-shaded art style is stunning, and the Eastern-inspired cities are a sight to behold.
However, the same love was not poured into Tasomachi‘s other aspects. Yukumo’s character model, though clothed decadently, has a fixed facial expression that never changes over the course of the adventure. As for the subtitles, the choice of font couldn’t have been worse. They look like a default typeface from a ’90s PC, and do not at all mesh with the art design or the obvious pastiches of traditional Japanese culture.
I also have questions about many of the design and story choices. What is this mysterious fog plaguing To-En? It’s never truly explained. Why include the ability to change day to night if it has no bearing on the mechanics or collectibles? Worst of all, Tasomachi’s ending is abrupt, confusing, and doesn’t clarify anything that’s happened along the way.
Mechanically, platforming is the bulk of Tasomachi‘s gameplay, and it’s rather standard. Though only starting with a mere jump, Yukumo will eventually unlock an air-drop, dash, and double jump to enhance her traversal abilities as she hunts down collectibles on top of buildings, hidden in bushes, and at the end of platforms overlooking the sea. The physics are floatier than the typical platformer, and Yukumo’s handling feels clunky. Her dash is particularly lackluster, though once combined with the double-jump, things feel more fluid.
Apart from the wonkiness of the physics, the platforming is by no means difficult, as the developers noted they wished to create a laid-back experience focusing more on ambience than challenge. I have no qualms with that approach, but I wish Tasomachi‘s city environments had more life to them. The buildings and skylines are decadent, but the four explorable settlements look nearly identical, and with no distinguishing features nor any map to aid the player, it’s easy to get lost when trying to find a specific location. Not only that, but these towns are nearly devoid of life. Upon lifting the fog in each area, Kogara notes each city’s population is again bustling, but I was lucky to find five residents in each area. Who exactly is living in these majestic five story mansions?!
Scattered across every surface in To-En are coins, which can be used to purchase new outfits for Yukumo and a variety of souvenirs. Unfortunately, the classic videogame cliché of money just lying around seems a bit outdated, and though some of the outfits are stylish, the souvenirs seem to have zero merit. The currency can also be used to skip the slightly more difficult “trial rooms.” I never utilized this mechanic, though I suppose it would negate any difficulty spikes for those looking for less challenge.
I certainly didn’t have a bad time with Tasomachi — the environments are gorgeous, and exploring the towns is entertaining for short stints, but there are many other platformers that are simply more successful in their mechanics, storytelling, and polish. This might be a viable choice for younger players or those desiring low-stakes play, but for everyone else, there are better options.
Disclosures: This game was developed by Orbital Express, published by PLAYISM, and is available on PC. This review copy was obtained from the publisher. The main campaign was completed in 3.5 hours. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: At the time of review, this game is Not Yet Rated by the ESRB. There are some perilous situations, but no violence whatsoever. This game should be suitable for all ages.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is no voice acting, but subtitles are not resizable or able to be altered. Aside from a few moments that indicate Yukumo has gathered enough collectables to make a Source of Earth appear, sound is not vital for gameplay, making it fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Aside from inverting the camera’s X and Y axis, controls are not remappable.