by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
Before we entered the Swordtales booth at Gamescom, I joked that the game title must have been found using Google Translate. Because Toren is Dutch for tower. Guess what, I was right, as producer Vitor Severo Leăes confirmed during the presentation.
Toren, as the translated title suggests takes place inside a tower. It’s a puzzle adventure game that has been under development at Swordtales for three years. Only recently is was picked up to be published by Versus Evil.
You play as a young girl named Moonchild who, as the game’s story progresses, ages from a mere infant to a grown woman. Each phase of her life has its own challenges, and with it new learning experiences for both the girl and the player. For example, as Moonchild grows bigger, she can reach higher platforms and thus work her way through new levels within the tower. During your journey, you solve puzzles and face monsters, the latter even when the girl is still very young. You discover scrolls of poetry which aid Moonchild in discovering who she is, why she is in the tower and what she is meant to do. None of which is easy, in fact, the tower is nothing so much as hostile.
There is an incredible amount of variety in Toren’s gameplay. We watched Moonchild struggle to open the lid of a well. When she finally managed – ending up on the floor in the process – a tree grew out of it. It grew and grew and we saw her take a ride to the skies on the tree and being taken higher and higher. This Tree of Life proved to be an excellent vehicle into new areas to explore, with all new items to find – most interestingly of which a sword stuck in somewhere in the branches.
Next we saw her use the branches to get to a staircase that winded itself up around the wall of the tower, which she set out to explore. Jumping gaps in the staircase, she ended up in a room where a lever could be activated to open a door lower in the tower. Jumping and running back to the tree and climbing down the branches, she ventured outside where a new puzzle element was shown. A scroll told us to draw symbols on the ground with sand. The symbols were outlined, all we needed to do was walk the girl along the lines, while leaving a sand trail. Even spilling some of the sand outside of the lines, the puzzle was completed. On to the next symbol, and the next.
The game switched to another scene. Moonchild, still as girl, was doing battle with a huge dragon which she killed with just a dozen or so strokes – was this too easy? The view switched again and we ended up in a bossfight, which featured an unexpected enemy: wind. Standing below a series of platforms – some with statues – all Moonchild needed to do was climb each platform in order to win the fight. If that sounds easy, it wasn’t. The heavily blowing wind could easily pick up and tumble the girl back down several platforms. Lulls in the wind allowed just enough time to climb the next platform where we found out what the statues were for: take refuge.
Toren will appeal to people who like their games to tickle their brains, not their trigger fingers. There is deeper meaning to the game which would be lost in an action game. If you take the time to appreciate Toren’s tale, you will see it reflects on the meaning of life and offers a peek into a journey about growth and transformation. And it doesn’t do so in a light-hearted tone either. The setting and story is best described as “dark fantasy” and somewhat akin to Pan’s Labyrinth, offering a universe filled with symbolism. If that is your cup of tea, then keep an eye out for this one.