Every clubby beach bar I’ve ever been to has a sign outside with a strict dress code. No shoes? No collared shirt? No overpriced drinks for you! Inevitably there is some Jersey Shore casting-call hopeful in violation of these commandments being told to get lost by an exhausted bouncer. In The Touryst, a puzzle adventure game released yesterday on Switch, this sad slob is me.
There’s a club on the island of Santoryni really want to get into because it’s one of only three buildings and surely there is some glorious secret inside. Taking one look at my blue pants and the red Hawaiian monstrosity wrapped about my torso, the bouncer tells me I need to get some nicer clothes before I go in. A clothing shop one island over has just what I need but I need to become a member of its “hip” club, and so I go off into the tall grass to hunt for some loose change.
The Touryst is full of these mundane details that nudge you to become more deeply enmeshed in its breezy, voxel-crafted world. It’s a chill, fun mini-vacation about uncovering secrets in ancient monuments littered throughout a series of tropical islands. Like vacations in real life, it’s best enjoyed free from expectations, exploring at your own pace rather than some overly-practical to-do list.
The game starts on the titular island of Touryst. There you find your way inside the Towa Monument, wherein a strange old man tells you you need to venture to several other nearby islands and recover mysterious glowing power cubes to unlock the secrets of a past civilization. Enough said. Getting to the bottom of things requires more than just sailing to monuments and solving a bunch of spatial puzzles, though. Unlocking the entrances and finding the tour guides necessary to navigate to new islands requires talking to people, solving their problems, and earning money to spend on upgrades like the ability to sprint.
The Touryst isn’t a particularly deep game, but it’s full of enough casually delightful interactions and discoveries that I’ve still been enjoying my time with it. For example, the starting island is home to a general store. From time to time the proprietor will call you on pay phones you happen to be passing by to let you know he’s gotten some new merchandise in. A camera you can buy can be used to take pictures of the monument you visit, which you can sell back to him to make postcards out of. The curator of a museum exhibit asks you if you can be part of her next show, so you supply her with pictures of people doing stuff like fishing, falling asleep on a bench, or falling in love.
Each task has a reward attached to it—usually more money or some new ability required to solve a later puzzle—but the game’s serene, chip-tune-inspired music and vibrant voxel-based art style make roaming around and completing them a nice way to pass the time regardless. Every action has a cute animation and makes a satisfying, retro sound. The puzzles are also fun to solve, if occasionally difficult to execute. While there aren’t any monsters to fight in The Touryst, I died falling down pits dozens of times. These puzzle rooms can be frustrating, but they don’t last long, and the creatively designed “boss” puzzles usually make up for it.
I’m only three hours in and about a third of the way through the game, but The Touryst’s world has already opened up more than I thought it would after my initial time with it. Instead of being told where to go by the old man at the start, I’ve been tasked with finding new islands and the tools needed to unlock their secrets by myself. Which is why I really need to find some extra cash to get some cool clothes and find out what’s going on inside that club. Maybe someone there will teach me out to DJ so I can put all the records I bought at the surf mall to good use.