The Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2021 was anthology compilation of 25 “low-fi,” PlayStation style indie games. Each title being an homage to the kinds of esoteric and intriguing games we all saw during the days of PlayStation Underground. This was at the height of Y2K era gaming, where games were at their sexiest and coolest.
The idea behind a Haunted Demo Disc, is undoubtedly appealing. Sadly there is no actual disc, and all of the games in it are far too advanced for PlayStation specs. However, one of the titles in the anthology has found its way onto the Nintendo eShop, and it is absolutely worth a download.
What can you get these days for a dollar? After a while ruminating upon this, there is not much of anything that is worth a single buck that can bring a substantial amount of enjoyment… Until now. Toree 3D is a 3D platformer that has no business being as good as it is, and it is a meager 99 cents. This is a deal that is so good, that it is scary.
Publisher: Diplodocus Games
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: April 9, 2021
Price: $0.99 USD
The best way to experience Toree 3D, is to go in blind, unaware of the weird and creepy aspects of it; which we will try to minimize in this review, though the scares are not the game’s strong-suit. The gimmick of making a cute and family-friendly game that is secretly evil is something that is rarely attempted; standouts usually coming from fan-games emulating creepypastas or 2017’s Doki Doki Literature Club.
Video games are a medium that make a lot of sense for something like that, but the developer has to keep the elements in place so it doesn’t come off as try-hard. Being aware of the gimmick can color expectations of the meta-aspect of the horror to come.
When playing a theoretical “haunted game,” you don’t actively look for the scary parts. The player would play it like normal, and be unnerved by some weird thing they saw that shouldn’t be there. Toree 3D can potentially do this, but only if the user is unaware of the gag.
The horror elements of Toree 3D are surprisingly restrained for the most part. Anyone who would play the game at a fast pace, may not even notice some of the irregularities. This is easy to do, since the gameplay is turbo-speed and evocative of the breakneck velocity that Sonic Adventure reaches. First time players may not even notice that weird grim reaper-looking guy that pops up once in a while.
Toree 3D is a linear 3D platformer with an emphasis on momentum. Toree is able to double-jump, and can throttle between a basic walking speed or a full sprint. He can’t bop on enemies; though you wouldn’t want to stomp on these critters anyway because they are really cute, and kill Toree upon contact.
The foundation for the game’s mechanics are very solid. The only issue is the lazy camera that has an inverted vertical axis and has no option to change it. This may be an issue for gamers who can’t adapt, but there is also a camera centering button mapped to the left shoulder trigger that helps a little.
After a couple of seconds and getting a feel for Toree’s movement and physics, players will find themselves zooming through nine varied stages. One leave may focus on slipper slopes, another might be a packed freeway full of trucks; and once in a while the game will throw a sneaky curveball at Toree to keep him on his toes.
Moving platforms, boost pads, wind vents, cranes, and even enormous gaps; Toree 3D has a decent supply of obstacles for one dollar. Collecting every star that is scattered in each level is very easy, since all of them are usually in plain sight, and netting of them in the game earns an extra playable character who can fly and effectively break the game’s boundaries.
Though collecting all of the stars may seem like a good idea, Toree 3D rewards the fastest players. To be the fastest, expect to skip every single star in the level. It is usually a good idea to skip entire chunks of the level that feature slower moving platforms, since the par for the best rating is unusually balanced with high level play in mind.
Getting good at Toree 3D means mastering the tight and responsive controls, and landing some unbelievably far leaps. Cutting past bends and doing whatever it takes to shave seconds off the timer won’t be as easy as grabbing every star; Toree will have to go pro and will demand many retries and practice.
Toree 3D is a very short game, as one might expect for something that was designed to emulate a PlayStation demo and cost 99 cents. Casually taking your time to grab every star and making it to the end credits will probably take most gamers under 30 minutes. Earning the highest ratings and unlocking the super fast ramen-guy will double the play time or more.
Even after earning everything, Toree 3D is still highly enjoyable to play and not because of its cheeky horror gimmick. The gameplay and sensation of speed is very satisfying, thanks to excellent controls and appealing audio-visual feedback. The levels are simple, bright, and colorful. The chunky PlayStation aesthetic has been flawlessly realized, and plays way faster and smoother than the real thing.
SIACTRO did his homework, and nailed the pixel fatness and appealing low-poly design. Toree is a very appealing character design for a 3D platformer, and he comes off as very cool thanks to his stylish 90s circular shades. The shading that gives his model volume is very accurate to the techniques seen in actual PlayStation games; not often recognized by indie devs who aim for this kind of look.
Other than the meta story of Toree 3D being one of the 25 haunted demos on a disc, the plot of the game is also very simple. Toree was minding his own business and then suddenly a guy who looks like death shows up and steals his ice cream. He has to travel through different worlds to chase this guy to get his desert back; but as he does, the game world around him begins to break down.
Every so often there are literal rips in space where the game’s code can be seen, sliced open by the antagonist’s scythe. Once in a while, there are game elements that are repurposed and corrupted in some provocative way. The further Toree goes, the worse it gets.
While the game does seemingly end with Toree getting his ice cream back, there is a forbidding sense of doom in the atmosphere. It is as if he is stuck in some kind of purgatory and is eternally damned to exist in this very small world created for him.
The music in Toree 3D is very energetic, and often conjures up memories of the rocking soundtrack of Sonic Adventure if it were made with a PlayStation sound library. The frenetic pace of the music does manage to inspire the desire to keep moving. It can often feel free to see the bright pastel skies with the booming score… Even if it has a hint of fakery to it.
The music of the last area stood out as unusually obnoxious, and it might have been by design. By this point in the game, the world has completely broken down, and so has the music. It is this grating and repetitive piece that is probably intended to make the listener feel like they are losing their mind. It worked.
The moments when Toree 3D tries to get creepy, it uses otherworldly white noise for ambiance. A haunting series of bleeps and bloops that make hair stand. It is an introspective kind of uncanniness that makes your skin scrawl.
As a haunted game experience, Toree 3D won’t unsettle anyone over the age of 12. Death does not appear all that intimidating, and he never has any real interaction with the player at all. He mostly functions as a piece of decoration in the background, and even when touching him as Macbat, the player will merely clip through him.
The real star of this game is the attention to detail of the PlayStation graphics and the great platforming. Toree is also a fun character; one who I would like to play as again in another installment of haunted demos. His bounce when jumping and landing, the adorable chirp, sunglasses and simplicity makes him appealing in the way Kirby is. He is a perfect video game character.
Toree 3D is the most fun that a dollar can buy. It is very brief, but it does have a lot of charm and the foundation of the mechanics are very satisfying. Level design is extremely tight; there is nothing wasted, and there is no filler. By the time it is over, expect to replay a few stages in order to feel that euphoric rush of adrenaline from the platforming.
Toree 3D was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a personal copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.