I don’t wanna holiday in the sun
Reviewed on PC, via Game Pass (I’ve also got the Switch version but it’s not as pretty.)
A confession, before we begin: I hate the sun. I hate beaches. I hate people in bikinis, I hate anthemic trance music, I hate almost everything The Touryst seems to love. And yet, I think The Touryst is quite good.
It’s a sort of puzzley adventure game, which greets you with a relaxed, wander-about-and-enjoy-the-sun introduction. If you’re a fan of the holidays I hate, it’ll be a familiar and pleasant beginning. After all, it’s gorgeous—the voxel-based art and warm colour palette are genuinely beautiful.
The plot, such as it is, is relatively obscured. You find a thing, and a man tells you to find more things, so off you trot. It doesn’t really tell you why, and in this game, that’s all right—because pottering around the islands themselves is far more enjoyable than the actual puzzley parts. But more on that later.
Each island—which is gradually unlocked as you acquire more things—has its own quirky little personality, its own theme. One of them is brimming with revellers throwing shapes in the church of dance, another features some surfer-types awaiting a competition, another offers a fish-based swimaround. They manage to feel distinct, which is impressive given the fairly limited scope of the whole ‘holiday island’ concept—and this is even without mentioning the island full of shops.
Once you get a few islands in, things begin to open up, and you find a little precinct—clothing shops, a record store, an arcade—which, as well as being a welcome chunk of density in a fairly sparse environment, serves as a hub for lots of fetching and solving. The arcade is especially nice, with competent tributes to Bombjack, F-Zero and Breakout for you to play (and earn some cash by beating high scores.)
Sadly, the arcade is where The Touryst peaks.
As mentioned earlier, islands are unlocked gradually. Each island features a ‘monument,’ which has an environment-based puzzle to solve. And this is where, for me, The Touryst loses its sheen.
These puzzles are more often than not based around platform hopping—and some of this hopping relies on leaps of faith, obscured visuals, and 2d hopping in 3d space. This is fine for most, I am sure, but for me it’s an exercise in frustration. Being able to fall to your death because you moved your control stick too far in a Z-axis which wasn’t necessary to the jump? Infuriating. Not being able to use a d-pad for these (I played with an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, other control methods are available) seems a bit unfair.
There are other flaws—the game sometimes gives you new powers and abilities, but no immediate way of testing and getting used to them. You’re sort of just expected to know how your double jump or sprint works. Many interactions feel as if they’re there to pad the game out—the bloke in the shirt shop won’t sell you a shirt unless you’re wearing a shirt, for instance, meaning a trudge back to a distant changing room. Sometimes, the default response to dialogue is ‘no,’ sometimes ‘yes,’ meaning the impatient button-tappers among us sometimes end up repeating actions needlessly.
Might sound like I hate The Touryst as much as I hate the Club Classics holidays that inspired it—not at all. It’s worth your time, and won’t take up too much of it. Just be prepared for your time in the sun to be interrupted by frustration in the darkness every so often.