The Touryst is What You Get When You Try to Make Mario Odyssey but Can’t Be Bothered Finishing It

Welcome to Game Pass Gems. Join us on the journey through the underbelly of Xbox Game Pass. Maybe we’ll find your next favourite game. This edition will focus on the crushing mediocrity of The Touryst

It’s four in the morning. Your parent’s wake you up, “it’s time to go,” they say. You blearily drag your suitcase to the car and pile into the back seat. The flight is in four hours but you’ve got to be there an hour ahead so your dad reckons it’s best to set out with a good two-hour headstart, “we can eat at the airport,” he says. You get there in good time, there’s a big queue at the check-in desk but that’s fine, it’ll be worth it when you get there. You have a Wetherspoons cooked breakfast and wash it down with a pint, it’s fine you’re on holiday. The plane has a 45-minute delay but that’s fine, it’ll be worth it when you get there. You finally squeeze your way onto the airplane and find your seat, it’s cramped, it smells, there’s a crying baby, but that’s fine, it’ll be worth it when you get there. Then you actually get there. The hotel staff curtly greet you, you get up to your room and pull the bedsheets back to reveal a cold grey slab. The shops and businesses are all just cardboard cutouts, the white beaches are glistening with broken glass and syringes and the sea is too cold to swim in, and to top it all off the airport lost your luggage. This is The Touryst.

The Touryst is what you would get if you made an attempt to put a vacation coat of paint on Mario Odyssey and scale it back to the level of Super Mario 3D world with the quasi-open world aspects left intact, except you got as far as programming the basics of each gameplay mechanic and just stopped because you couldn’t be bothered finishing. At its core, The Touryst tasks the player to explore a series of islands with the goal of eventually gaining access to each island’s monolith to acquire the core that lurks within. Along the way, the player can find various minigames and small challenges to collect coins that can be used to unlock upgrades to make their search easier. You may be thinking that this adds depth to the 3D platformer. You’d be wrong.

The game’s store page paints a pretty picture, literally. Graphically, the game is presented in a very pleasing voxel art style, with gorgeous lighting highlighting the few, very carefully chosen, images presented to you. This, admittedly, does carry forward in game. The island environments are, at surface level, beautifully realised, and do create a real dream vacation vibe. Although if one digs a little deeper, cracks begin to show in the salt stained veneer. The devs have cleverly hidden a lack of detail within the “minimalist” art style and volumetric bloom, and this becomes readily apparent when you attempt to actually play the game. Platforming becomes extremely difficult when you attempt to figure out your relative position in a 3d space with no actual objects to orient yourself with. This is a real issue in the game’s monolith segments, which take place in moodily lit caverns with literally nothing but grey platforms on show. This results in the player having nothing to relate the character with in the environment, which results in most, if not all, jumps being taken with no small measure of blind faith. More often than not you’ll simply jump and fall until muscle memory alone guides you through the particular screen you find yourself on. It’s an extremely unsatisfying experience, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back on the store page you read on, only to see an achievement listed for making it as far as the island of “Ybiza”, “haha” you think to yourself, “they swapped the I in Ibiza with a Y, like in the title of the game, that’s funny. Maybe this game will make me laugh through clever use of the written word. Or maybe even through dialogue”, and while I’d commend you on such an articulate train of thought, again, you’d be wrong. The Touryst is, outside of a few very sparsely sprinkled moments, an utterly humorless experience. NPCs will simply bark instructions at you, and the environment is entirely devoid of parody. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’d be little visually comedic moments, ribbing the standard tropes of places with a tourism economy. There’s none of that. None at all. The set pieces never go further than “A DJ is playing here and he needs help turning his smoke machines on” or “The Juice Bar has run out of melons”. This is symptomatic of the real disease this game is plagued with. Sheer laziness on the part of the developers.

The REAL problem with The Touryst is that no individual aspect exceeds the bare minimum effort required past its implementation. Every single facet of this game has something about it that drags it back below the surface of par for the course. This isn’t always as pronounced as the aforementioned lack of environmental detail. More often than not it’s just one simple thing that makes you sit back and sigh. Take, for example, the few mini-games that occasionally crop up. The pretenses themselves are all fine. A muscly man wants you to beat his push up record, the guy at the arcade wants you to beat his high score, the footballer wants you to shoot more goals than him. It’s all standard stuff but acceptable within its own boundaries, the problem comes from how these mini-games play out. Each time you are first given a target score that’s quite easily reachable within the time limit, serving as more of a tutorial than an actual task, the second time you play, in every circumstance with almost no exceptions, you are given a target that requires absolute mechanical perfection, with almost no margin for error whatsoever within the 30 second or so time limit. While this is a bit unsporting for a game that markets itself as a cutesy, “fun for the whole family” type affair, that in itself isn’t the main issue here, absolute mechanical perfection is what separates the men from the boys after all. The problem is that there’s no way to manually quit and restart each time. Meaning if you mess up in the first five seconds you have to sit and wait for the remaining 25 for the privilege of being allowed to start again. It’s one of those little things that a developer that cared to effectively emulate their peers would have sorted out after the first round of QA testing, and it’s things like this that are absolutely pervasive throughout the entirety of The Touryst. The mechanics are the buffet but Shin’en Multimedia didn’t bother seasoning it. Tasks that send you from island to island, having to backtrack to the original island each step of the way. Unskippable cutscenes of you leaving and entering each island every time. Half baked gameplay mechanics. Admittedly creative boss fights that involve the heinously fidgety and imprecise physics system each time. It’s a game that seems to go out of it’s way to ruin the few good ideas that it has. Yeah, the hotel has a diving board, nobody has scraped the Vaseline off it though.

While playing through The Touryst, I was convinced that it’s shortcomings came from a publisher that saw a working game with a pretty lighting system and said “okay this is fine, ship it,” I was so certain that this was the case that I’d probably have put money on it. These suspicions were swiftly put to bed after it was revealed that Shin’En Multimedia self-published. Quite simply, it’s a game of half measures. Meeting the absolute bare minimum to qualify for a full release. The potential for a great adventure platformer has been utterly squandered. According to Wikipedia (the devs didn’t bother so why should I), the game took 3 years to complete, after the first, I can only assume, Shin’en went on their own vacation for the following two.

Don’t bother playing The Touryst, it wont be worth it when you get there.

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