If you read my recent first impressions article, Röki: A Look At What’s To Come, you’ll know I made no secret about how excited I was after playing the demo. Now I’ve got my hands on the actual game does it deliver on its promises? Oh yes, yes it does. Read on to understand why.
What is Röki?
Röki is a modern point and click adventure game from Polygon Treehouse and United Label Games. It starts with a sobering tone. Tove and her brother Lars both miss their mother who recently died. Their father is kind but emotionally absent. He’s grieving for his late wife and dreams of how things used to be. It’s all quite sad and I was feeling for the children as they made dinner alone. Lars is still full of beans come bedtime so Tove sits down to read him their mother’s favourite fairy tale.
Things take turn for the worse as Lars is abducted by the titular Röki – a huge shadowy beast with a mouth full of gleaming teeth, who’s like a nightmarish version of something straight from the bedtime story. In hot pursuit Tove enters a magical frozen world full of trolls, talking trees, gnomes, and more. She soon learns this world is in peril and she’ll need to overcome many challenges if she wants to save her little brother.
As a point and click adventure game the key mechanic sees you collect items that will solve particular problems. You’ll drag items from your backpack into the world to ‘use’ them either with success or failure.
For example, early in the game you need to scare away some ravens, who are just out of reach. Luckily, you picked up some pebbles earlier so you’re now able to drag them onto where they’re sitting to throw them at the annoying birds and shoo them off. If you’re familiar with that mechanic and can think creatively you should be able to overcome many of Röki’s challenges. I found myself creating a mental log of problems and kept a keen eye open for possible solutions. An interesting element is the need to combine objects to make new tools that will let you progress – like tying a rope onto a bear trap to make a crude grappling hook. Some of what you need is tiny and well hidden. Helpfully you can press on the left stick to highlight nearby interactable objects. And don’t worry if your memory isn’t the best – Tove kindly jots key info down in her handy notebook (which is gorgeously illustrated).
There are also some environmental puzzles to solve, such as inputting a hidden code, or rotating pieces of an image to unlock a door.
The developers recommend using a controller but you can use mouse and keyboard if that’s your preference. On controller it felt natural navigating the world and interacting with its residents.
A Feast for the Eyes
Röki is beautiful. During the demo we were treated to a snow-covered forest. In the full game you absolutely get your fill of stunning snowscapes, but you also explore troll caves and cottages, snoop around magical laboratories, uncover dusty crypts, and more. Each new scene is delicious, rich with detail and the games trademark visual style.
I applaud the use of scale here. At times Tove fills the screen as she squeezes into a low, dimly lit tunnel. But she is dwarfed by colossal statues and mountaintop temples. It’s a simple thing to overlook, but it creates a real sense of place and emphasises how vulnerable this little girl is in a wild and unpredictable land.
A Treat for the Ears
The soundtrack adds to the immersion. It sings like a softly played lullaby but with an undercurrent of something sinister and unseen. You feel a pervading presence – like something is watching you from the shadows. At times, the land itself seems to burst alive with a rumble and groan, like an ancient giant turning in its sleep. It’s powerful stuff.
In my first impressions article (see link at top) I highlight that the dialogue isn’t voiced and is delivered via text. Instead we get a sense of how the parties involved in the conversation feel from verbal nods or key words spoken in a certain tone. Polygon Treehouse used Scandinavian voice actors to fit the locale of the game and it really works. I still have the multi-layered ‘voice’ of the Tree of Many ringing in my ears.
Having this otherworld, emotion-based language just adds to the feeling that Tove is ‘not in Kansas anymore’. She’s is facing into this strange and confusing world alone with only her wits and a desire to help others to guide her.
A Modern Classic
Hopefully by this stage you’ve come to understand that I am a real fan of this game. This is a work of art. It takes all of the best elements of point and click classics like Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer and brings them into the 21st century. It’s beautiful, emotional, thought provoking, and varied.
My only small criticism is that there’s just one save slot. If you want to start a new game, it means erasing all your progress so far. Currently my better half couldn’t try the game, and I couldn’t revisit the start to see if I missed anything. Maybe a future update will add this.
But 2020 really could use a little light. Tove’s infectious insistence on helping others has given me real moments of brightness in these challenging times.
I loved playing Röki and I would encourage you to take the leap into this magical world yourself.
Röki is out on Windows 23/7/20 and Switch later this year