REVIEW: ‘Röki’ is Deep, Sweet, and Whimsical (PC)

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Roki
I picked up Röki on art style alone. Its handcrafted graphics are adorable and whimsical enough to pull in any gamer right away. That said, I continued to play this heartfelt adventure game because of its winding and fantastical narrative. If you haven’t heard of Röki before, the game from Polygon Treehouse sets players off on a journey through a contemporary fairytale inspired by Scandinavian folklore. You play as Tove, a young girl touched by magic and the heroine of the story. Over the course of around 12 hours, you are tasked with unraveling the mysteries of a mystical forest and its hidden pathways. Along the way you find curious items, engage with intriguing creatures, and journey into Tove’s memories to directly confront her past as she attempts to save her family.

Inspired by Scandanavian folklore, Röki is a modern take on the adventure game genre with accessible controls and non-violent gameplay rooted in puzzle solving and exploration of a fantasy world. Tove also chronicles the player’s experience in her trusty journal, making note of the uncharted regions uncovered, the loot collected, and unique badges earned throughout. The journal is also a window into the rich folklore Röki is influenced by.

The first thing that needs to be called out is Polygon Treehouse’s uncanny ability to craft Röki’s atmosphere. The world feels vast and whimsical and between the score and art, each time the narrative changes emotion you can feel it. The opening of the game is cold, monochromatic almost with snow, darkness, and a slight tinge of wonder. When the game opens, you’re playing in the woods with your brother Lars, his yellow poncho popping against the background. As you walk back to your home through the woods, the game details how to play. This soft opening that doesn’t ask for much emotional investment shifts the moment you get back to your house. We learn more about the death of your mother and the hole it’s left in your family, with your father drunkenly sleeping. As Tove, you’re tasked to make dinner and put Lars to bed. Then, the game switches into pushing your fear and driving tension, using ravens and darkness to do so. It’s here where the games’ fantasy takes form as you confront a monster who destroys your home.

As the narrative continues, the art and score push the wonder of the world and pushes you further through a magical and emotional world. While the dialogue in Röki is simple, it does a lot of work and answers all of your questions. Additionally, even without full voice-over work, the dialogue is still emotive, helped by the score. That said, the one small element that could have been done better in this section of the game was the inclusion of sounds from the characters. Grunts, sighs, and exclamations are the only recorded vocal lines for the games’ characters. While this is understandable from a game coming from a small studio, hearing the same sounds over and over quickly becomes frustrating. Thankfully, you can turn this feature off, and in my opinion, once doing so, you get to feel the full weight of the story.

Additionally, Röki’s gameplay is extremely challenging but never unforgiving. Each section of the game requires you to solve puzzles and to think creatively as you do it. In order to progress in the game, you collect different items and figure out how to best use them to interact with elements in the environment. Through creative gadgets and observing your surrounding, Röki manages to escape violence while still providing a solid adventure. Seek out clues and drag and drop items into the environment to solve inter-linked, intuitive, and memorable puzzles. While there is nothing overtly marking interactive items in the world, you do have the ability to trigger a mechanic which illuminates the items you use for a brief period of time. This allows you to see a possible way out when you get stuck. That said, while this mechanic can help you out of a bind, it isn’t so much that it solves everything for you which allows the game to maintain a challenging but enjoyable difficulty.

Röki’s are extremely simple, with the usual keys commanding movements, and the crafting system relying on dragging and dropping items to each other. This drag and drop feature is also necessary when you’re using an item to solve a puzzle. For example, in one moment, you have to help remove a dagger from a troll. To do this you combine a heavy object you found in one area of the map and a rope you found in another. Once you’ve combined them, you then drag your new contraption to the troll and an animation plays out to show you’ve passed the puzzle. While this mechanic hits its simplicity, it isn’t the best to keep a player engaged in the puzzle-solving process. Additionally, while you are able to increase your drag speed, it does hinder some of the game’s pace – especially when coupled with needing to close out dialogue before using inventory items.

When all is said and done though, Röki is a lovable game with deep storytelling, and while the mechanics behind crafting and puzzle-solving isn’t my cup of tea, the narrative and art are. This game offers beauty in its design and emotion in its narrative. At only 12-15 hours of playtime, this is an easy game to pick up and play through.

Röki is available now on Steam, with a Nintendo Switch release coming in the future.

Röki 
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

When all is said and done though, Röki is a lovable game with deep storytelling, and while the mechanics behind crafting and puzzle-solving isn’t my cup of tea, the narrative and art are. This game offers beauty in its design and emotion in its narrative. At only 12-15 hours of playtime, this is an easy game to pick up and play through.