Röki is a wonderfully charming and enjoyable adventure title. It joins the long list of indie titles I’d not really heard much about that ended up utterly winning me over. From story to setting and mechanics, it’s a (mostly) wonderful time all round.
We follow the adventure of Tove and Lars, a young girl and her even younger brother who get wrapped up in an ancient myth-come-to-life story. When one of the four Guardians of the land falls for a human and bears a child, she is cast out by the others and banished to a hidden realm with her monsterous offspring Röki. Enraged and betrayed, she begins searching for a way to turn her son into a human so he may be free. This entails kidnapping and sacrificing children in order to use their essence for her own son. Naturally, our protagonists are the next in line, and when Lars is captured by Röki, Tove sets out to rescue him and help the Guardians restore peace and harmony. The story is told entirely through text, and takes enough twists and turns that were genuinely heart wrenching at times. By the time I reached the conclusion I was fully invested in all of the characters motivations and feelings, and without spoiling any of it think it will be a tale I remember for quite some time.
Tove herself is who we mainly play as, and we move her through several main locations in search of her brother. The game is split into three chapters, with the second played out over the biggest area of them all. Broken into around a dozen sections, we must solve item based puzzles in order to proceed further into the forest. It’s this puzzle system that surprised me the most. While we control Tove in the same manner as any 3D adventure, when it comes to item usage it’s more of a Point and Click style interface. There’s a lot of dragging items to see if they can be used at certain points, or combining items in the menu to create new items for use. I’m not usually a fan of these style of puzzles, but something about the way it’s done in Röki just works wonderfully.
Despite the fantastical setting, the puzzles solutions are – for the most part – pretty logical. Some strange looking, oily seeds can be ground down with my new mortar and pestle which then lets me oil up some rusty gears, for example, or a register of names will let me figure out the missing gravestone head which then feeds into another puzzle elsewhere. Only a handful of times did I get stumped, but the game does a great job of helping point out areas and items of interest. We can also press the left stick in at any time to highlight things we can interact with, as well as click on our inventory which will usually give a vague hint as to what the item could be used for or with. Despite all this help it’s not like we’re just breezing through the game; there’s still a decent amount of thought that needs to go into solving puzzles, and I ended up really enjoying the implementation – with one caveat.
As I say, the items flash when we press the stick in, but some of them are incredibly small on the screen. I found this to be a problem especially on a small, 1080p tv while using my Series S. One late puzzle had me scouring the fairly labyrinthine third chapter area over and over as I was clearly missing something, which turned out to be in the exact area the puzzle was in after all but the tiny item was too well disguised on the screen and so I completely missed it for far too long. Thankfully this was one of only a couple of moments like this, but it was all the more annoying because I was really keen to keep going and see more of the story. This third area also introduces a new mechanic which I felt was a nice touch but in practice it ended up dragging the playtime out a bit more than it needed to, effectively asking us to move about this labyrinthine area twice over. While the chapter is shorter than the second overall, it was a definite pace killer before ramping up towards the final moments.
Having said that though, I still came away from Röki having enjoyed it very much indeed. The characters we meet along the way are all unique and interesting, and I really liked how Polygon Treehouse interwove several of the arcs and puzzles across them. The sense of place and aesthetics are excellent too, with some lovely visuals complemented by nice ambient music and effects. The tale may be told via text, but Tove and the rest of the cast all make various grunts and mumbles as their text box pops up, helping to sell the emotion in the writing. All of this adds up to a game that was heart wrenching but gripping, and a pleasure to play.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.