I love video games of all shapes and sizes, and one of the things that I love most about the medium is it’s ability to tell engaging and interactive stories that continue to surprise you and provide a platform where various different themes, genres and histories can come together to create experiences richer than those individual parts that created them. Röki is the perfect example of that, as it tells a deep and engaging story blending together a strong narrative driven adventure, Scandinavian folklore, and rewarding point and click adventure style puzzles to deliver an experience that is visually gorgeous, and will have players thinking about it long after they’ve completed its emotionally powerful main story.
Röki is the debut game from Polygon Treehouse and published by United Label Games. The main story follows Tove, a young girl we meet at the start of the game, playing in the snowy fields with her brother Lars. It’s clear from the get-go that Tove has a strong bond with her family. Spending her days looking after both her brother and father, as we learn early in the game that her mother sadly passed away shortly after giving birth to Lars. An event that has clearly affected Tove’s father still to this day. This has forced Tove to step up, and despite being young, she provides a lot for her family and has adopted the responsibilities of a mother for Lars.
After a magical creature Röki takes Lars, Tove sets off on a quest to rescue her brother, taking her to a magical land filled with supernatural and magical creatures from Scandinavian folklore. Here Tove will need to solve puzzles, perform favours for and befriend magical creatures to progress further on her quest to reclaim her lost sibling.
In an attempt to not give too much of the main plot away, that’s about as much of the story I’ll cover in this review. But just be prepared, although the art direction of the game is quite bright and appears to be a story book come to life, there are some fairly serious and dark themes presented within Röki. But these challenges are mostly used as stepping stones to show Tove’s growth and accomplishments achieved throughout the adventure. Tove is an inspiring character full of determination and drive, and one that truly shows you that you can get closer to achieving your goals if you continue to push on and never give up.
Röki is packed full of magical themes and supernatural creatures that are adapted from various Scandinavian folktales, and I loved how well these creatures were used within the game to provide a larger than life experience for Tove to overcome. But one of the things that actually made Röki so special for me were it’s realistic and grounded themes of loss, determination and the bond of family. Even though the game is full of magical elements, the challenges that needed to be overcome were mostly real world problems that had very real consequences and required real world solutions to overcome.
One thing you’ll notice is it’s effective and well constructed sound design. It’s very minimalistic but very effective in conveying emotion. The game features a lot of text, but the game isn’t fully voiced. Instead the vocals focus more on presenting you the emotional tone of the dialogue or statement rather than narrating it to you word for word. This combined with the soft, ambient score and the world’s sounds like the crunching of snow or the creaking of old floorboards really immerses you within the world.
There are a lot of puzzles to solve within Röki, and I loved that as with many classic point and click adventure games, the solutions aren’t just handed to you. There is a button that can be pressed that will highlight any interactable items within a scene but it’s still up to you to find the purpose for the items you collect, often resulting in a fair amount of trial and error attempting to use numerous collected items as a solution to an obstacle blocking the path to progression, or even combining items together to form a completely new item that can be used to progress. There are also plenty of times throughout where you may find an item and have no use for it at that moment, but it may be a crucial component to solving a puzzle you’ll encounter many hours later, meaning you should always be aware of what is lurking within Tove’s backpack.
Other than it’s great story, one thing that ensures Röki will be enjoyed for years to come is it’s art direction. The game really does look like a children’s storybook come to life. It’s vibrant, hand-drawn art style ensures that the game won’t be looking ‘dated’ anytime soon. I found the game to have a lot of parallels to another point and click adventure title, and one of my favourite games of all time, Broken Age. The art style is similar and the way in which items are stored and Tove is controlled within each scene reminded me a lot of Double Fine’s aforementioned game. But although Röki has similarities to other titles and genres, it’s characters, environments and it’s use of mythology allows it to well and truly stand on it’s own as a great adventure game.
Röki does have some unfortunate pacing problems as the game hits its later hours because of the need to backtrack through environments you’ve already traveled through numerous times to progress the narrative. There is a fast travel system that is able to be utilised to travel between main areas which does offset the backtracking slightly, but the whole experience would have been better off with some trimming leading into the game’s final act.
Some of my favourite games are from the point and click puzzle genre because of the storytelling ability it provides and the immense feeling of accomplishment that comes with solving puzzles. And Röki certainly sits up there with some of the best I’ve played thanks to its deep narrative, clever puzzle design and it’s eye catching and beautiful art style. As mentioned in the review, I think Röki will be a game that will be played and talked about for years to come. And with it soon to hit a number of other platforms, I’m excited to see more players get their hands on the game and to see what Polygon Treehouse will come out with next.
A PC review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review
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