I’ve reviewed enough point-and-clicks by now that my whole “I don’t play very many of these” schtick is probably beginning to wear its welcome. It’s not that I do play a lot of them – because I don’t – but, personal preferences be damned, one or two of them always seem to trickle down into my pile of reviews every couple of months. It’s not all bad, though. Despite not being my cup of tea, and despite not always liking the P&Cs that I review, there do come along a few every so often that I actually end up enjoying – and TSIOQUE just so happens to be one of them.
Much like the game’s protagonist herself, TSIOQUE is curious, whimsical, and vibrant. Sure, it doesn’t attempt to wow the audience with any kind of flashy gameplay mechanics or unnecessary extravagance, but it also isn’t afraid to be playful when it wants to be (which is a lot of the time). It’s a nice game to sit down with for a few hours, plain and simple. And as a point-and-click, that’s all that it really needs to be.
Of Moms and Magic
Presenting itself as a fairy tail of sorts, TSIOQUE tells the story of a young princess of the same name who one day, after her mother goes off to war, finds her castle under attack by an evil wizard and herself being taken prisoner. Most princesses, put in the same situation, would wait patiently in their confinement – content to stay there until a dashing hero arrives to save them. Tsioque isn’t “most princesses”, though. She’s confused as to what’s going on, mad that she was captured, and, most importantly, determined to rescue both herself and her kingdom in her mother’s stead.
Much of TSIOQUE’s story is fairly mundane, presenting a somewhat watered-down version of the kind of narrative that you might find in the P&C heavy-hitters of yesteryear. It’s fine, but it’s nothing special; and I assumed that the game would carry that same narrative tone throughout its entirety. I, however, was wrong. While I won’t say exactly what happened, as I worry I’d spoil it, I’ll give TSIOQUE major credit for taking a certain… unexpected turn in its narrative. It’s not something that I saw coming and, once I realized what was happening, I become much more intrigued as to why what I assumed was going on was going on. The best part of it all was that I honestly didn’t see it coming. The game such a good job of setting up its own (admittedly slow) pacing, that it only becomes that much more exciting when it deviates from your expectations. Major kudos to you for that, TSIOQUE.
Without mincing words, TSIOQUE is pretty much your average point and click as far as actual gameplay is concerned. That, however doesn’t make it bad by any stretch of the imagination. Being fully aware that there isn’t, in all honesty, much that it can do to surprise you in terms of actual mechanics (although, to be fair, there aren’t too many ways which a P&C can actually deviate from the norm), TSIOQUE instead focuses on making sure that its point-and-click elements are up to snuff – a move which paid off in the end.
Much of TSIOQUE’s gameplay, naturally, involves puzzle-solving. Now I’m not point-and-click expert, so you’ll have to take what I’m going to say with a grain of salt, but this game actually had me stumped a few times. While there was nothing ever so bad as to reach the dreaded “Sierra level” of difficulty (thank goodness), TSIOQUE doesn’t hold your hand as much as certain other modern-day P&Cs seem to. Fortunately, the game never gets too baffling – the worst thing that I ran into was not realizing that a clickable item or location was, in fact, clickable – and the game provides a very balanced level of challenge overall.
TSIOQUE also seems to be quite fond of quick-time events. While QTEs are nothing new in the P&C realm, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a game use them quite as liberally as this game does. Whether it’s navigating through tricky passageways, making a hasty escape, or even using a magic invisibility cape – heck, there’s even an entire mini-game surrounding QTEs – TSIOQUE will have you making sure that your hands aren’t ever not on your mouse while you’re exploring the castle grounds. No need to worry about it taking over the game, though. While TSIOQUE definitely has more reflex-testing segments than any other point-and-click adventure that I can recall playing, they aren’t at all intrusive. They’re a quick and fun addition, sort of like sprinkles on a cupcake (that makes sense, right?). And, best of all, there’s no real penalty to messing up – you’re free to try any and all segments over and over again until you get past them.
TSIOQUE isn’t perfect, however. For as much as it does right – which, as you can see, is quite a bit – I still couldn’t help but feel as though it was somewhat lacking. While the game’s large focus on making sure that its most basic elements were as polished as possible, there wasn’t much else to it. Perhaps it’s the genre itself – after all, there are only so many ways that you can make a point-and-click adventure. And yes, this game had plenty of QTEs, but there are only so many things that you can do with those as well.
Coloring in the Lines
TSIOQUE’s artistic direction also lends to its overall presentation. Placing an alarming amount of distance between itself and the horrific, H.R. Geiger-esque artwork within OhNoo’s last game, Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, TSIOQUE features a much more whimsical hand-drawn art style. While I personally preferred Tormentum’s artistic sensibilities, I’ll wholeheartedly admit that they wouldn’t work in a game like this. A youthful and cartoony style suits this game’s overall theme, and even its narrative, much better, making its graphical choices an excellent fit.
When the Parents are Away, the Kids Will Play
TSIOQUE wasn’t enough to make me a tried-and-true point-and-click adventure fan, but I’ll admit that I did have fun with it. While the game doesn’t go out of its way to feature anything particularly novel or noteworthy, it is a nice homage to the P&C classics – featuring colorful and vibrant graphics, decently challenging gameplay, and a surprising-yet-heartwarming story and I don’t see why any and all pre-existing fans of the genre wouldn’t appreciate what it has to offer. The next time you’re in the market for a trip back into the golden age of P&Cs, TSIOQUE might not be a bad game to go with.
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: OhNoo Studio ; Developer: OhNoo Studio, Smile ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 7, 2018 ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $13.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of TSIOQUE given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.