Review by Bradley McManus
Born into an isolated Tower, you are the Moon Child, destined to climb higher and grow from a baby into an adult. It is your destiny to defeat The Devil and gain your freedom. The ambitious 3D platformer/RPG comes from unknown Brazilian developer Swordtales.
Throughout the few hours I played Toren, I felt like I was involved in a piece of DLC for the Playstation 2 game, Ico. Just like Ico, the game is quiet, isolated, lacking consistent combat, story-driven and leave a lot of open ended areas for interpretation. It is an experience, not just a check list of objectives. Unfortunately the technical short comings of Toren stop it from stepping close to the heritage of the game it is so similar to.
Toren repeatedly gives you information about the story which I can loosely understand is about gaining your freedom by killing a dragon which has the ability to petrify you with a scream. There is something about the sun helping you (or defending you?) which comes together in the final battle - but the general story was lost on me.
Technically the game is not polished. There are multiple examples of clipping and I fell through the floor several times. At one point I was climbing up through the middle of a walkway and events like this were common enough to break your immersion. There is a bit of screen tear too on wider shots which was within acceptable limits but was noticed more because of the other mistakes. The jumping of the main character is a motion rather than a skill, you just point in the general direction. Where she can struggle to make a 2 meter jump one moment, she will quite happily clear a massive jump the next second. You end up just jumping in a general direction knowing if you don't land it, you've just gone the wrong way. This was really disappointing. Respawns from certain areas are also frustrating as you simply walk from A to B repeatedly while you try and solve a puzzle.
Clocking in around 2-3 hours, Toren is a small game but it is quite well contained. With the gameplay issues I was happy to finish when it did although I'm still not certain what exactly happened.
The game did have a profound effect on me. The story is the most difficult to grasp and yet is also the strongest aspect of the game. Developer Swordtales clearly have a knack for this kind of thing and it gives massive hope for their next project. It's really strange to play something like this which causes your mind to stay with it rather than just move on. Toren gives me mixed feelings. I find it difficult to recommend something to new players which is fundamentally flawed, but if you have played and enjoyed Ico then you would certainly get something from this and can easily look past the glitches.
It has to be said that the small Indie developer was supported by the Brazilian Cultural Incentive Law & they have done the title proud. It must always be remembered that this is the first game from the studio and as debuts go this is something memorable.