3D platformers are one of my favorite genres of all time. They give us interesting worlds full of collectibles, and are usually coupled with fascinating characters and vibrant music. They’re also usually an absolute blast to play and while are light on story, make up for that in the gameplay. Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight is 3D platformer that at first glance does a lot of things differently from other entries in the genre, but are these differences for better or worse?
Players take control of Yukumo, who is flying her airship through a gorgeous landscape when suddenly the fog comes in and she’s forced to make an emergency crash landing in a rather creepy little town seemingly devoid of life. You do soon meet one of many adorable cat creatures, and these will be your primary NPCs throughout the game. After a bit of exposition about why everyone is gone and the fog and stuff, the adventure can begin.
You’re given a quick tutorial that involves grabbing a lantern, which are the main collectible in Tasomachi. Collecting these lamps will unlock new areas, clear the fog and when earned at the end of a Sanctuary, platforming based side missions, will allow Yukumo to learn new abilities like a ground pound or an air dash. These abilities are mainly used in the Sanctuary sections or to discover secrets strewn about the towns because there really isn’t much in the way of combat in Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight. The lack of hostile enemies definitely helps add to the ambiance of this abandoned world, but also means the main thing you have to do is entirely centered on Yukumo’s acrobatic abilities.
One of the main factors I judge a platformer on is its movement. Movement is important in most games, but I’m always much more critical and aware of it when it comes to a platformer, especially one in a 3D space. For me, the very act of movement should be fun. Even if I’m not making any progress at the moment, my ability to run and jump and take advantage of whatever other moves my character has up their sleeves should be an enjoyable experience. Yukumo struggles with this a bit as her momentum never feels quite right and her jumps are a tad floaty. This isn’t too much of a problem early on, but when later stages start requiring much more precision platforming with more restrictive timing, the issues with the controls will become a lot more noticeable.
The environments in Tasomachi are absolutely gorgeous. One of the main artists of Behind the Twilight is Nocras, and they worked on such memorable titles as Final Fantasy XIV, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. With that level of artistic pedigree involved, it’s not much of a surprise that the game itself looks great. Once Yukumo starts clearing the fog out of areas, the colors become vibrant and the environments are where the game shines brightest. Despite its fantastic visuals, so many elements are repeated and it can become pretty easy to get lost. This is unfortunate because you’ll need to explore the towns thoroughly in order to collect the necessary lanterns.
The story is basically non-existent, with the main goal being “fix your airship” like sure, you’re eliminating the fog and finding “sources of earth” but how these things all work and are accomplished and even why we’re doing them are never really explored. Even a lot of the notes you can find scattered about just feel like flavor text with no major purpose. Speaking of text, a minor complaint I have is that all of the text boxes feel very out of place. While the environments are gorgeous, the text boxes almost feel like they belong in a completely different game; one of those shovelware Wii games at that. The game just has static plain white text on semi-transparent black text boxes that offer nothing to Tasomachi’s impressive visuals and felt more like an afterthought. Maybe it was a bit better in the original Japanese, but it stood out as rather jarring to me. I know complaining about font choices may be a weird thing to dwell on, but imagine how off-putting it has to be if I considered it noteworthy.
Speaking of noteworthy elements, very early in the game you’ll encounter your first shrine, which are used to save your game. When you interact with this first one, the game is polite enough to warn you that Tasomachi does not have an auto-save feature. While I think a game like this one would benefit from just having auto-saves, especially after you’ve gone out of your way to find that one annoying hard to reach lantern, I do always appreciate when a modern game that doesn’t have it is nice enough to inform the player.
For twenty bucks, Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight may not be worth it. I’d definitely recommend other platforming experiences like Blue Fire or New Super Lucky’s Tale. But it still felt like a better deal than the fully priced Balan Wonderworld that released just a few weeks prior. Yukumo is a fairly charming character, and while she feels a lot different from the usual cartoon animal mascot we see in 3D platformers, she feels perfectly at home in this world. The world, which I may remind you, is absolutely gorgeous, and is definitely the best part of the entire experience. The soundtrack is fine, mostly consisting of ambient tracks that all work well enough, even if you won’t find yourself humming them later. Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight has a lot of potential as an explorative collect-a-thon platformer, but it’s currently lacking in the two biggest things a title like this would need. The controls need a lot of fine tuning, especially with the amount of precision platforming we do. And if you’re going to create an engaging world with a rich history, players need to get more of that and be rewarded for learning about it. Finding a note that says “lots of people used to live in this town, and it was prosperous” just isn’t enough. The seeds of a great experience are here, but we just need to see more of it.
John reviewed Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight on Steam with a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on GOG.