The Touryst Review: The great escape

Shin'en Multimedia
Shin'en Multimedia /

The Touryst overcomes its considerable flaws thanks to its vibrant personality and resplendent environments.

Title: The Touryst
Developer: Shin’en Multimedia
Publisher: Shin’en Multimedia
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release date: November 21, 2019

As a young lad, one of my favorite activities was perusing through the vast catalog of my local Blockbuster. Being young, ignorant, and not sentient enough as a lifeform to comprehend the idea of the internet, Blockbuster was my go-to place for discovering new fragments of pop culture. It sounds crazy today, but this is where I would often discover some under-the-radar, random video games and, by the good graces of my mother, rent quite a few of them. Through this practice, I discovered one game in particular that, for some odd reason, remains in my head all these years. That game was Haven: Call of the King.

You probably haven’t heard of it, which is fine. It wasn’t necessarily the best game ever made — far from it, in fact — but it did have tons of ambitious ideas and varying gameplay mechanics. It was building an entirely new world ripe with variety in tasks to complete that I never knew what came next. While not nearly the same kind of game or ambitious ideas, The Touryst, for better and for worse, reminds me of that same multi-faceted energy due to the sheer number of activities and mini-games you’ll complete on your journey.

Developed by Shin’en, The Touryst is a puzzle-adventure game where you play as a, well, tourist! The game tasks you with exploring multiple islands and areas in search of various items and currency to help you on your quest to discover the secrets that the world has to offer. There isn’t much of a cinematic story, per se, but the game instead shines with its aesthetical prowess.

It’s like a mishmash between Minecraft, Minigore (but without the violence! weird reference, I know), and Crossy Road. It’s genuinely pleasant to look at, and the islands you’ll visit have a different enough look to them — from sunset beaches to rainy mountains — to keep things fresh.

the touryst
Shin’en Multimedia /

The game hardly has anything like an original and soundtrack, or anything that feels very video game-y, but the sound design — from the cascading waves to your footsteps gliding across the grass — made for a much more relaxed, therapeutic sort of experience.

You’ll even gain access early on to a camera that allows you to take pictures of all these delightful sites you’ll come across. In fact, the game feels like its begging you to take pictures of it, with both the in-game and Switch camera functionality, to really capture the luscious vibe of everything you’re experiencing — just like a real tourist would.

Throughout your time exploring these island environments, you’ll come across a myriad of tasks and mini-games to complete in order to progress further. At its heart, The Touryst is a puzzle game, but not in the sort of traditional way that may first come to mind. Sure, there are special dungeon-like areas with puzzles and tricky platforming to cross that are the center-piece of each level, but there’s also so much more. Almost like the title would suggest, the game takes an approach that lets you partake in a litany of side excursions and missions. One second you’ll be exploring a cave for valuable diamonds, and the next you’ll be dancing at a beach party.

Canoeing, drumming with native islanders, and playing in the arcade are just some of the other activities you’ll partake in throughout your journey. That’s the strength of The Touryst: It keeps giving you opportunities to do something different.

This kind of variety is something that I was really looking for, and while that by no means is a suggestion that the game is a truly gigantic open-word sandbox — as it is actually still more linear than not — it’s just nice to see. If I could describe the game with just one word, it’d be “vibe.”

the touryst
Shin’en Multimedia /

However, while exploring and experiencing this wonderful vibe is sublime in many ways, the game doesn’t always feel fully fleshed out. Like the aforementioned Haven, the variety here will keep you excited to see what’s next, but it doesn’t exactly master anything in particular. Mini-games and activities aren’t fully fleshed-out ordeals, and sometimes they can even be a bit frustrating.

While it’s exciting to be able to go deep-sea diving, there really isn’t much for you to explore outside of one main objective you need to accomplish and two chests that give you an extra coin (try swimming out of bounds and a tentacle will reach out and drag you to your doom in a, shockingly, horrifying fashion). You may love the idea of spending your coins in stores for various items, but there isn’t too much there.

But the worst aspect of The Touryst, above all else, is how needlessly frustrating some of its platforming sections can be. There aren’t a ton of them since, after all, the game isn’t exactly a long one (took me a little over 6 hours, add a little extra time if you’re trying to 100% it), but they truly did rub me the wrong way. Perhaps I’m just terrible at video games (unlikely, but perhaps that’s just my ego talking), but these truly did feel like a hindrance to my enjoyment with it. Everything in the game’s mechanics, for the most part, is just fine and rarely spectacular.

That’s the thing with The Touryst: If you view it from a more cliff-notes — for lack of a better term — perspective, just appreciating the total volume of activities you can partake in, it’s a pleasant one. But if you truly hone in on each specific point, and each specific activity, you realize they were simply slightly above average; there isn’t a truly big “WOW” moment in terms of gameplay.

Then again, perhaps that’s what makes The Touryst such a solid game. It never suggests or even feels like it’s trying to be a revolutionary experience or masterclass in design. Instead, it’s more of a jack-of-all-trades — a brief reprieve from the sometimes corrosive real-life world we live in. And for that, I must admit that despite its flaws, the game succeeds as a whole. By the time I was done with my little vacation adventure, I couldn’t help but want more.

The Touryst. 7.5. The Touryst overcomes its considerable flaws thanks to its vibrant personality and resplendent environments.. Shin'en Multimedia.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.