Röki – Review

In Röki, we search for an abducted brother in the magical Scandinavian forest. Do the Jotuns favour it? Here’s what we think.

There’s a lot of invisible machinery that has to go on under the magical cloak that is a playable video game. When it goes right, the cloak starts to shine and you forget that you’re playing a game. Without realising when or how, you’re drawn into the snowy forest you’re exploring. You find yourself caring for characters that might as well be your real family now, and every success brings relief and delight. That’s the sort of game Röki is.

Röki revolves around Tove and Lars, a pair of Scandinavian kids who live in a remote cabin with their widower dad Henrik. Their love for Norse fairy tales and myth comes all too real one night, when their house is attacked by a fearsome beast named Röki. The beast steals Lars away, and his sister follows him into a forest populated by creatures of myth and fancy. Rendered through childlike sensibilities, the fairy tale creatures of Röki are utterly charming and awe-striking. There’s the tiny Tomtes with their graceful beards and clockwork legs, and the giant Trolls with their rocky hides and penchant for herbal recipes, and there’s also the fearsome Yule Cat who threatens to eat up people who have no new clothes by Yule. Tove must explore the forest, help the beings that inhabit it, and be helped by them in return if she is to find out who took Lars, why, and where.

Röki’s gameplay uses a modernised, gamepad-friendly version of the classic point-and-click adventure paradigm, but it skews more towards exploration and puzzle-solving than conversation. As I consulted the map, tracked clues, examined my inventory’s contents, and placed symbolic stone blocks in their appropriate slots, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the exploratory puzzle-solving of the classic Resident Evil games. Much like in those, the bulk of the gameplay in Röki consists of remembering where things are located, and building a logic of how the items in your inventory might interact with them. It’s a satisfying gameplay style, and very hard to put down, too. Each time I thought to take a break from the game, I thought “Alright, that’s enough… but let me just use this item in that location, I just know that’s going to work.”

Röki screenshot

Of course, there’s no zombies here, as Röki is an adamantly non-violent game. The only hacking and slashing you’ll be doing will be against creepy tentacle growths or wooden debris. Even when faced with beings that oppose you (I hesitate to call them enemies), the game presents a pacifist solution that hearkens to the wit and trickery of classic fairy tales.

There’s a lot of meat to Röki’s puzzles. There’s a lot of backtracking, too, but that is eased somewhat by the addition of tree rootways that help you get around quickly. No matter how far along you are, there’s always something to do, some logical connection you make with the objects you’ve seen and the objects you have. It makes for a steady flow of running around, dragging items to use them on the world, and then basking in the chirp of success that follows. Thankfully, there isn’t a single puzzle in the game I’d characterise as illogical or far-fetched, but the game still felt just challenging enough that I had fun trying to figure out its intricacy.

Röki screenshot

All this inventory puzzling is supported on the pillars of solid presentation. Distinctive, illustrative 3D art underpins your forest journey, bringing to life the characters within it. It is clear that developer Polygon Treehouse is an expert at the craft of video games, evidenced by the steady pacing of the game, the well-rounded and just-enough narrative, and most of all, the world and level design that ensured I never got lost or overwhelmed. Like a work of Scandinavian wood carving, Röki is a finely-crafted, intricate adventure game that perfectly grasps the essence of puzzles, fairy tales, and family.

Developer: Polygon Treehouse
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Publisher: United Label, CI Games
Release Date: 23rd July 2020 (PC), TBA 2020 (Switch)

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the developer. The PC version of the game was played for this review of Röki.

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Like a work of Scandinavian wood carving, Röki is a finely-crafted, intricate adventure game that perfectly grasps the essence of puzzles, fairy tales, and family.

This Article was written by: Rahul Shirke

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