Review – TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight
TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight was brought to my attention from out of nowhere. I had heard nothing about this indie title until a week before its release. This was especially surprising since attached to the project alongside the indie studio Orbital Express, was developer Nocras, who has provided artwork for Final Fantasy XIV, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The influence of Nocras is apparent after merely watching the trailer. The only question I had left was: would the rest of the game be just as alluring?
You play as Yukumo, a bright-eyed girl piloting an airship that crash lands into an unfamiliar land. With her ship in need of repairs, she ventures into the town of To-en to find its inhabitants missing and everything enveloped in a strange mist. Being totally upfront with you, I will say that the trailer for TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight is a bit misleading. It makes it seem like there’s some dark mystery to be solved and intriguing storyline to be unearthed.
However, that’s not the case at all. In fact, that’s about all the story you’ll get. Throughout the adventure, we learn absolutely nothing about our protagonist and very little about the land she has found herself stranded in. All you know is that there use to be people living in the towns, then this sinister mist drove them away. The only remaining inhabitants are the Nezu, a tribe of cat-people who offer very little information and are mainly there for providing hints about your current objective.
The only thing that is made clear from the beginning is that in order to fix your airship, you’ll have to help the Nezu. To do this, you’re tasked with clearing the mist by purifying the Sacred Trees found within each town. Every time you cleanse them of their corruption, the mist will fade from that area. This makes more of each town available for you to explore and allows you to find more resources, which are presented as lanterns in this game. That’s it. That’s honestly as deep as it gets.
While the story might be severely lacking in substance, the gameplay is at least pretty fun. This is a very casual 3D platformer that focuses more on leisurely exploration than brutally precise acrobatics. The more challenging platforming sections are encountered in the Sacred Tree Shrines, but even then they’re not overly difficult, even in later sections. If for some reason you’re finding yourself struggling with a particular section of the Sacred Tree Shrine, you can pay twenty coins to have a portal open up that will teleport you to the goal instantly. Like I said, it’s a casual game through and through.
Although, there are a number of lanterns you can go for in each shrine that are trickier to reach than the rest, but these are purely optional. You can easily beat the game without collecting every lantern available. However, for anyone looking for a bit of actual challenge in TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight, then obtaining these lanterns in the Shrines are the only place you’ll find it.
After purifying a Sacred Tree, you’ll be granted a new ability. There aren’t many abilities, only three in fact: ground pound, air dash, and air float (double jump). Early on, after clearing a town of all of its mist, you’ll discover that there are many lanterns that you can’t reach. It doesn’t take a far leap in rational thinking to realize that you’ll have to revisit each area after gaining all of your new moves. Once you have each ability unlocked, getting the rest of the lanterns is a piece of cake.
Thankfully, the gameplay mechanics are pretty decent. Admittedly, the jumping is rather floaty, but it doesn’t take too long to get use to. Luckily, the rest of the controls are tight and responsive. There was never a time when I missed a mark where I felt cheated. This makes the relaxed nature of the 3D platforming even more enjoyable. There aren’t really any issues with the camera for that matter either, which is always a blessing.
Since TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight is a game that was developed by a AAA artist with some serious credits under his belt, you’d expect for the art design to blow you away. While there are some truly impressive landscapes, not all of the designs reach that level of quality. The character designs for Yukumo and the Nezu are clean and vibrant, but when you see them up close they look stiff and waxy. The same can be said for the environments. When looking at them up close, much of what’s there appears rudimentary and without any significant textures. However, whenever you can look at the towns from far away or a higher vantage point, the views can be simply breathtaking.
I also found some of the animations to be a bit odd. For example, when Yukumo does her ground pound move, she never actually slams on the ground. Instead, a ring of blue light emits from her when she’s in the apex of her jump and the breakable flooring beneath her simply busts apart. There are also many places you can have her sit and admire the view. The sitting animation is fine, but when you exit out of it she’ll immediately appear standing on top whatever she was just lounging on. There are also occasional framerate dips and minor screen pacing issues, but lucky those instances are fairly rare.
The sound design is another area that’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s no voice acting, but it’s not really needed. The atmospheric sound effects are wonderful, but many of the others are unconvincing, such as the bursting of balloons and the breaking of wooden boards. The musical score was hit and miss for me too. The melodies played in the towns from composer, Ujico, were delightfully light and playful. However, the songs played in the Sacred Tree Shrines felt really out of place, being mostly comprised of frenetic synth-based tunes. For areas that are suppose to be hallowed lands, the change in style felt jarring.
Despite some issues I had with TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight, I have to say that I ended up enjoying my time with it. I do wish that there was more of a fleshed out story and perhaps a modicum of character development, but I still found myself liking it nonetheless. I’ll admit that I was disappointed at first because it wasn’t the type of game I was expecting from the trailer. Then once I came to terms with what it actually offered, I was able to change my mindset and settle in for the ride. The easygoing nature of the game, along with exploring its beautiful environments, became a mellow, cathartic experience. If you’re looking for a whimsical, casual platformer to break up the grind of fast-paced violence, then TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight might be the game for you.
The character models of Yukumo and the race of cat-people look pretty good for the most part, but appear waxy close-up. Similarly, the environments look rudimentary when close, but there are some truly spectacular visuals when you can see everything from a high vantage point.
This game is a casual experience, having no enemies or threat of death. It is a 3D platforming adventure that is more about the enjoyment of exploring these new settlements around you. The controls are fairly floaty, but responsive and never feel unfair.
There’s no voice acting and the soundtrack is a mixed bag. The songs when in the towns are very well done and fit each area. The tunes within the Sacred Tree Shrines feel out of place with their frenetic synth-based tunes. The sound effects are also hit and miss.
The trailer for TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight is a bit misleading, making it seem like there’s a deeper story to be uncovered. However, once you understand exactly what kind of game this is and what it has to offer, it becomes a mellow, cathartic experience.
Final Verdict: 7.0
TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight is available on PC.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of TASOMACHI: Behind the Twilight was provided by the publisher.