I’ve never been the biggest fan of point and click games – I find them, for the most part, to be slow and boring, and I lose interest easily – but something about Röki immediately caught my attention. As soon as I saw the trailer, I knew I had to play it. I’ve always loved mythology and folklore, so the game’s setting was definitely a selling point, but I was also drawn to the unique art style. The story looked compelling, but I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. At a glance, Röki very much looked like a game I would enjoy, but trailers can be misleading, and I’ve been let down before – we’ve all played at least one game we were super hyped for, only to be sorely disappointed by what was actually delivered.
Thankfully, Röki didn’t fall into the category of games that look good but actually aren’t.
Developed by Polygon Treehouse, a small independent games studio, Röki is a game that takes heavy inspiration from Scandinavian folklore and is currently available for PC, and it is set to hit the Switch at a later date.
Without spoiling too much, Röki follows the story of Tove, the game’s young but fierce protagonist, as she traverses through a forgotten world filled with all sorts of bizarre creatures to rescue her younger brother, Lars, after he was snatched away by a large, black beast in the dead of night. If she ever hopes to see Lars again, she must risk it all to awaken the three Guardians of the forest to open up the portal that will lead her to Lars – not an easy task in the slightest.
Throughout her journey, Tove comes face-to-face with all manner of creatures, both friend and foe. These creatures range from Trolls with huge personalities to the illusive Tomte and the lonely but dangerous Nokken. Each creature is unique and rooted within the lore upon which it is based. It isn’t just the creatures Tove has to contend with either. She has to contend with herself too. In order to save Lars, Tove must re-discover herself as buried memories, long-since forgotten, resurface and leave her to confront some rather unpleasant truths about her past.
Graphics and Sound
As I mentioned earlier, one of the main things I was drawn to before even starting the game was the art style. There’s something truly special about the rich, painted aesthetic that the game employs that perfectly fits the overall feel of the game. It’s simple but not overly so, which creates a beautiful, snowy world full of weird and wonderful creatures for the player to explore. Coupled with its unique art style, Röki also boasts an impressively atmospheric soundtrack – melodious and otherworldly but with a little hint at the darkness that lingers beneath the surface. This is important. Röki is a heart-warming story about the bond between siblings, but it is als categorically dark – something characteristic of most folklore and mythology.
Like most point and click games, the gameplay for Roki is relatively easy – something that supports the developer’s claim that the game is an ‘adventure for all’ with its accessible controls. You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy Röki. Additionally, Röki has full controller support, which is how I played. A smart move considering a lot of gamers feel more comfortable with a controller than a keyboard and mouse. I did, however, find it a little tricky to drag items accurately using the joysticks at times. This by no means took away from my overall enjoyment of the story, but in hindsight, I would have probably made use of my mouse and keyboard instead.
With its combat-free gameplay, Röki instead puts Tove through her paces with a number of puzzles and riddles for the player to solve. I was delighted to find that these puzzles were actually pretty challenges, though thankfully not to the point where I wanted to throw my computer across the room, even if some did stump me for a while. The map is a nice size – it’s actually a little time consuming to traverse it all, especially with all the backtracking you’ll have to do, but thankfully, there are some convenient portals that cut this down dramatically. The developers have made good use of this relatively large map, incorporating puzzles and objects and interests throughout. It’s for this reason that you really need to pay attention to your surroundings. Aside from the objects that Tove decides to place in her journal – something you should check frequently as her documentation of her journey can help when you’re stuck – everything else has a purpose. It might not be needed right away and rarely in the place you found the object, but they will be important all the same. This is part of what makes Röki so special. There were times I got to a new puzzle and just knew what might work to solve it. It is for this reason you should explore your surroundings carefully as you can easily miss an object, leaving you exasperated when you can’t seem to make any progress no matter how hard you try. When you eventually backtrack to find the item, the solution often becomes blatantly clear.
With multi-step puzzles that often require you to combine objects and riddles, Röki provides you with a challenge. It’s not over-the-top hard, but it’s enough to get you thinking rather than mindlessly mashing buttons or trying random combinations in the hopes that they work. Polygon Treehouse managed to find the balance between engaging puzzles and compelling stories so that the gameplay never feels like a chore, which is important as the game is around 9-10 hours and can easily stretch further than that if you miss an object and come to a standstill.
At its core, Röki is a charming story about family. It is a story of love and loss. A story of bravery, self-discovery and redemption. It is a game that makes you think, both through its thoughtful storyline and varied use of puzzles and riddles. I enjoyed the gameplay, but Röki’s biggest selling point is definitely the story. Tove is a child, scared and alone, but she braves through her journey for one reason: Lars. The love she has for her brother and her determination to save and protect him is what makes this story so compelling – definitely one that I won’t forget any time soon. As someone who generally doesn’t enjoy point and click games but thoroughly enjoyed this one, I truly believe Röki is indeed an adventure for all.
Developer: Polygon Treehouse
Publisher: United Label
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 23rd July 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Röki was provided by the publisher.