Once upon a time, there lived a boy and his big sister, Tove. Together with their Pappa and the boy’s stuffed friend, Mr Jötun, they lived in their snowy log cabin. Tove would cook eggs for tea and read epic tales of monsters and forest guardians to help her brother, Lars, fall asleep. One night, as their Pappa stays slumped in his chair, dreaming of the beautiful face of the wife he loved and lost, Tove and Lars are attacked by a mysterious creature. They are left with no choice but to set fire to their home and venture out into a strange, unfamiliar world.
Developed by Polygon Treehouse, Röki is a gorgeous adventure game heavily inspired by Scandinavian folklore. It’s a compelling, yet dark, contemporary fairy tale that looks like a children’s book, but delves into themes of wonder, grief, love and loss. Combined with atmospheric exploration, incredible sound design and tricky puzzles, this is a standout game that everyone needs to try.
What Are The Graphics Like in Röki?
From the second you launch the game the striking art style, packed with charm, draws you in. The lighting casts an ethereal contrast across the world, wrapping you up in shades of soft, yet solid colours with minimal outlining. This gives the world the appearance of a picture book, which is fitting, considering the fairytale nature of the narrative. It’s immediately breathtaking – I found myself taking screenshots to simultaneously admire the lighting design and to show off to friends.
The environments sparkle with frost, simultaneously filling me with warm memories of Christmas’s long ago and a creeping sense of foreboding. This is typical of Scandinavian folklore – what may first appear harmless can hide terrifying secrets. The world of Röki embodies this; the environment stretches back a surprising amount, opening the world up for exploration. Pair this with runes etched into ancient walls, gnawed bones lying alone in a lair and the cawing of ravens at twilight, this game is an atmospheric journey that delights at every corner.
Röki’s Narrative is stellar
I’m hesitant to spoil much of the narrative for you, but I’ll say one thing. Tove’s objective is wrapped up in traditional Scandinavian folklore, tracking down the forgotten giants who protected and cared for the land outside her home to save her family.
Fundamentally, Röki is a game about kindness and empathy. On her quest to find her brother, Lars, Tove impacts other people’s lives through her shining, childlike affection. This sense of altruism is woven into the fabric of the puzzles as much as the narrative.
I particularly enjoyed how the narrative encourages you to discover its secrets at your own pace. Much like a child intent on causing mischief, you can find your way into hidden rooms and bring monsters back to life. I remember playing in my mum’s house as a child, sneaking through ‘hidden’ rooms to discover ancient magical beings. Playing Röki resurfaced those feelings.
Röki and the magic of sound design
Sound can make or break a game and I’d be amiss if I didn’t touch on Röki’s stunning sound design.
Rich with delicate windchimes, crunchy footsteps and charming exclamations, the sound effects set the tone of the scenes and wrap the player up in this fantasy world. LookListen has knocked it out of the park. Combining a minimalist art style with gorgeous chords evokes this mystical, whimsical tale.
The isolated piano chords may have made me feel alone, but the crunch of snow beneath my feet and the satisfying windchimes that rang when I scanned for interaction made me feel alive. Almost as if I were a child, singing to myself on an adventure. We may rarely see Tove’s face, but the music elevates the world to another level.
what is the Gameplay like?
Röki is a blend of genres that somehow manages to cater to all fans. I’m not the biggest fan of puzzle games. But I was completely engaged in its challenges like never before. There’s a human side to the endeavours that encourage me to think outside of the box. These puzzles are woven into the narrative. There was no white-hot frustration I usually feel when faced with a puzzle. I only ever felt challenged to adapt my way of thinking. If you find the point-and-click genre to be lacking, there’s enough critical thinking to keep it from feeling dull. The freedom that this offers players makes the game feel more like an adventure game, letting them learn and explore from the point-of-view of a child again.
Tove also keeps a notebook on her journey, which acts as a guide to certain puzzles. This helping hand is useful to refer back to if needed. And you can’t help but feel childish wonder when pretty feathers and eggshells fill the pages. Whilst the notebook can become cluttered and hard to decipher by the end of your journey, I enjoyed how the scrawls relayed Tove’s personality in an engaging, subtle manner.
So, Is Röki worth your money?
This game is human, and there’s not a better way to describe it. Röki’s earthy magic takes you on an emotional journey unrivalled in the indie scene so far. It strikes the perfect balance between childish wonder and adult themes. It’s paired beautifully alongside a rich world filled with folklore and magic. The gorgeous sound design and stylish graphics work perfectly together to engage you in the twists of the narrative.
You experience Röki’s darkest themes through the eyes of a child in a picture-book setting. The magical tale of Tove and Lars will become folklore in its own right.
This copy of Röki was played on PC.
Featured Image Credit – Polygon Treehouse.