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December 2021

Tasomachi: Behind The Twilight

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Playism
Developer: Orbital Express
Release Date: April 14, 2021


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PC Review - 'Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 26, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Tasomachi: Behind The Twilight is an action adventure game where you explore a mysterious Eastern themed town.

If you've played platformers in the last few decades, then you've come across collect-a-thons, where truly completing the game means finding every single object that can be picked up and counted toward a running total. If it's done right, it will have you pulling off some impossible moves to get the next item and enjoying every second of it. If it's done wrong, you'll begrudgingly do the same and feel like you've been shortchanged. Unfortunately, Tasomachi: Behind the Light leans toward the latter.

You play the role of Yukumo, a normal girl who's traversing the world in a blimp. As she comes across a few islands, a mysterious fog rolls in and an even more mysterious energy blast hits the blimp, forcing her to make an emergency landing. The blimp isn't destroyed, but to return it to flying order, she must help out the cat-like beings known as the Nezu by finding the Sources of the Earth, items necessary to cleanse the Sacred Trees that can get rid of the fog plaguing the islands.

The setup is good enough, but the follow-through isn't there. As you free up each island, you see that more people make their way back, but you don't get any more story advancement. You clear the fog, move to the next place to do the same, and the cycle repeats. There's a segment where you can get the airship repaired in a very short sequence, and you are ultimately asked to reach the main island temple to get rid of the items producing the fog, but that's it. You are thanked for clearing out the source of the fog, but there's no explanation about where it came from or why your blimp was attacked. There's no resolution to those questions, making the journey feel empty.

The three major islands you visit throughout the game follow the same cadence. Once you arrive, you're given a limited amount of space to explore. You start looking for the Sources of the Earth, which are all hanging out in various places like in the dirt, in bushes, or teetering on high platforms. Eventually, you gather enough to gain access to a shrine for the Sacred Tree, where you complete four different platforming challenges to access the room with the tree. Challenges range from manipulating moving platforms to outrunning platforms that collapse once touched. Falling into the water below means redoing the challenge from the beginning, but the game doesn't offer a formal "game over" screen. Most of the challenges are doable, but you can pay a few coins to skip them and still get the Source of the Earth and the checkmark to denote the completed challenge. Get all four done, reach the tree, and you clear some of the barriers from the rest of the island to repeat the process for the second Sacred Tree.

Clearing out the second tree opens up special parts of the island that produce things like jump pads and teleporters to get in and out of buildings. It also unlocks a shop where you can spend coins on more costumes and decorative home items. Exploring the island is one of the more satisfying parts of the game, as the developers have been devious in where they're hiding some Sources of the Earth, and since progression is gated by having a certain number collected to reach the next milestone, you'll come to know every inch of the island. One thing that is puzzling is the nature of some of the quests to obtain a Source. Some are fine, such as getting pieces of a Source together to form a whole one. Others have you breaking pots that one of the Nezu finds valuable, while another has you popping all of the balloons one of the Nezu lost. In a way, the quests make it abundantly clear that Yukumo is a hero, but she's also a big jerk about it.

Along with Sources, Yukumo also gains a few abilities once some of the Sacred Trees are purified. They're all normal moves, from a ground pound to an air dash, but their execution isn't what's expected. For example, the ground pound shows Yukumo producing an aura at the impact point but not hitting the ground, and a double-jump requires hitting a different button to execute the jump, working against decades of game design and muscle memory. All moves lack visible momentum, so although you need them to traverse large gaps and capture Sources, you never feel like you can do it.

That ties into perhaps the biggest issue with Tasomachi: poor general platforming mechanics. Yukumo's jumps are floaty, and you can't judge how far you're going or how high you can go. A big reason for that is because you have no shadow, so the lack of a secondary guide makes the platforming just as slippery as it was at the dawn of the 3D platforming era. It doesn't help that a number of the routes to reach the Sources are filled with narrow platforms. There's some forgiveness in movement, so falling off isn't too common, and as mentioned before, some of the challenges are easy to complete, but the "mushy" platforming impacts the gameplay from the outset.

After you repair the blimp, the introduction of flying areas also adds new issues, since you need to visit all three islands a fourth time to work on the new challenges to get the required 150 Sources to unlock the final fight. Blimp flight is fine, but you can't reach any of the out-of-the-way Sources by flying into them. If a Source was meant to be obtained on foot, you can't cheat your way to it via the blimp. Also, leaving the screen for the town at any time means that your quests are reset. For example, one recurring quest has you trying to light up all of the town's lanterns, but if you leave to go to a shrine, all of your quest progress is reset. That's a pretty big annoyance, especially since it affects some quests that you've already completed, so you'll be asked to pull up some weeds every time the level is reset, even if you already did that and received the Source for it.

Another thing that drags down the experience is repetition. Some repetition is expected, such as air races, which provide a good way to see each island from the air. Others are mundane, like the aforementioned weed-pulling and balloon-popping. Some seem to be mysterious, like tearing down posters opposing the Sources of the Earth but, like most of the game, there's no explanation for it. The fact that each new island produces the same activities leads one to believe that the game ran out of creative gas and padded things out.

Initially, the presentation seems fine. The environments look gorgeous thanks to the ancient Chinese influences mixed in with small-town modern Japanese areas. The Nezu are cute, Yukumo is modeled nicely, and some graphical flourishes are impressive, like basic reflections on the water . The whole thing runs effortlessly at 60fps, but look closer, and the graphical flaws start to pop up. The three islands start to look too similar, so that sense of wonder goes away. Almost all of the Nezu sport the same animation, while Yukumo's unblinking eyes and dead face make her look more like a mannequin than a person. Coupled with texture flickering and polygon pop-in at the screen edges, the graphics don't look so impressive anymore, especially when you notice that anything with particle effects runs at half the frame rate and the graphical options can only be changed by tweaking the .ini file.

The same thing can be said about the sound design. The lack of voices makes Tasomachi feel emptier, but that might be a good thing when you consider some of the dialogue that pops up due to your actions. The music is very poppy and cheerful in a lo-fi, relaxed way, and it sounds pretty good on its own. Some of the tracks feel out of place when perilous situations are paired with an upbeat song.

Tasomachi: Beyond the Light starts off with an intriguing premise, but the plot doesn't go anywhere, and the ending feels abrupt. The environments are great to look at, and the platforming challenges vary greatly, but the platforming mechanics aren't tight enough to be enjoyable. It's a short game that can feel long, and while the dedicated collect-a-thon crowd may find it a tad enjoyable, everyone else will likely bail before getting the bare minimum needed to finish it all.

Score: 5.5/10

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