Today I’m looking at indie game, and former Switch exclusive, The Touryst. One of my friends recommended it to me, as he found its free exploration and relatively short length relaxing.
Initially, I didn’t find it quite as peaceful, because the first thing I did was jump out of the arrival boat on the wrong side to see if I could swim in the surrounding ocean … I could, until I was eaten by a shark.
Once I respawned which let me quickly discover that there is no life counter and no major consequence for death, I began exploring the islands. The Touryst takes place across a cluster of small islands, which you travel between by boat. The boat being at the end of a boardwalk and accompanied by an ever-present Captain reminded me strongly of the balloonist in Spyro the Dragon, which added to the game’s nostalgic vibes. Some of the islands are inspired by real-life locations like Santoryn (Santorini) and Fyjy (Fiji); all of them are compact, colourful, and studded with secrets, mini-games and tasks.
Like in many adventure games, the protagonist is a blank slate. All that matters is the gameplay, and the tasks to complete. The main story of The Touryst involves investigating the old Monuments built across the islands, after meeting an older tourist who believes the Monuments hold some kind of mystery. Exploring these Monuments involves environmental puzzling, platforming, and relatively simple boss battles; finding the islands in the first place requires hunting for clues, completing smaller tasks for NPCs to earn the money for Travel Guides and ability upgrades, and even swimming out to sea to find messages in bottles.
Speaking of upgrades, the protagonist can learn to climb, to double-jump, and to sprint so quickly that he can smash through walls. He also doesn’t take fall damage, and can’t drown. The only drawback of death is that dying inside a Monument or other indoor activity will reset you to the start of that room. Even these resets only get frustrating during the mining area, which contains the longest platforming sequences, but this area is optional (well, unless you’re after the full 1000G).
The Pixel-Brick-styled voxel graphics are clean, detailed, and charming, whether they’re depicting idyllic oceans or hazy sunset beaches. Visually, The Touryst only has one weak spot for me, which is its way of handling draw distance. While blurring more distant objects does feel like a clever extension of the photo-taking mechanic, it sometimes kicks in too strongly and blurs foreground objects which then suddenly pop into focus. (That is a nitpick though.)
Puzzling and platforming are mostly consistent and fair, especially as each island offer plenty of antepieces that hint at what skills the next Monument will require. Each Monument offers a mixture of puzzle elements, including visual patterns, light and shadow, throwing and stacking objects, and some physical challenges such as sprint-jumping. Although I was confused in one or two places, I’m pretty oblivious at puzzle games, so a game that I find difficult in a handful of places would count as easy for most people.
One area, however, stands out as being surprisingly irritating for such a generally chilled game. The Twyn monument in Hawayy is one of the few places that relies on precise platforming rather than puzzle solving. Unfortunately, the orb platform sequences feel artificially difficult due to how small the orbs are. Landing a square character on a slippery spherical platform that’s barely wider than the character feels like cheap difficulty rather than like a satisfying climbing challenge. The 3/4 view camera doesn’t help here, as it can make estimating your jump distance tricky.
Some tasks take place across islands, and islands can contain minigames that can only be completed after equipping an item from another island. As a result, completing the game fully requires lots of hopping between areas. However, the travel time from one island to another is only a few seconds, which makes this less annoying than it could have been. The photography quest, which tasks you with capturing people who match specific clues, is potentially the biggest offender here. My recommendation is not to try and do this quest in one go, but to look through the camera for points of interest on each island while doing other tasks.
Finally, the games hidden within the game deserve a mention. Inside the Arcade building are three playable arcade cabinets; a Breakout-style game, a 2D platformer, and an F-Zero-style racer. Completing these games, by exchanging collected coins for arcade tokens, is one task on your to-do list, and so far its the only part of the game I haven’t been able to complete.
The Touryst is a fairly short game: I completed the main story in around 8 hours, but the internet estimates its average completion time at 5-6 hours. For me, the game is just the right length; I would have found the inter-island travel annoying if it was extended across more islands or longer tasks. Instead, its a compact, well-designed adventure.
During my play-through, I didn’t experience any technical issues or glitches. Despite my minor complaints about the camera perspective in some areas and the couple of difficulty spikes, I feel like The Touryst has been made with care and attention to detail throughout. It feels like the kind of game Game Pass is made for, as I don’t think I would have picked it up at its regular price of £16.79 based on its store description alone, but I did really enjoy it once I started solving puzzles.
The Touryst goes into my Cool tier, as it feels old-school in a good way – its a throwback to older character platformers but with a much more casual approach to progression and retries. The ending feels satisfying to watch, and sets up a sequel idea that I hope materialises – I’d like to see more adventures in The Touryst’s world.