A Magical Adventure
On the surface, Roki looks like another simplistic point and click adventure game. The early hours of the title certainly give that impression but Roki quickly breaks free from these shackles to deliver something much more memorable. There’s a lot of really imaginative and interesting ideas here, alongside a story that begins as a simple rescue mission and evolves into something far more profound and poignant. While the title still suffers from the same issues this genre has had in the past, along with a fair amount of back-tracking late on, it’s easy to overlook in the wake of such an engaging story.
Roki is a title consumed by themes of loss, grief and love. These aren’t new in the realm of video games but they’re given a new lease of life here within the snowy backdrop of Scandinavian folklore. You play the role of Tove, a young girl who shoulders the responsibilities of her family in the wake of a tragic accident claiming the life of her Mother. Left to look after boisterous, hyperactive brother Lars, Tove juggles this while trying in vain to wake her Father Henrik from his drunken slumber.
The early hours of the game get you accustomed to the controls before thrusting you head-first into this fantastical world – the typical “call to action” trope. Lars is captured, whisked away to parts unknown by a monstrous black shadow, while you’re forced to try and track him down across numerous inter-connected areas. As the game progresses, Roki mixes things up nicely with some story-based cut-scenes to show exactly what’s going on with Lars. Alongside that, a late-game character switch does wonders to freshen up the gameplay.
I won’t spoil anything here but suffice to say family is one of the central ideas, interwoven around those aforementioned themes that play out beautifully across the story. It’s also worth waiting for the post-credit scene too which helps to give some closure to the story.
Aesthetically, Roki looks great and uses a simple, minimalistic art style across its play-time. There’s a great use of colour and given a lot of the exterior shots are blanketed in snow,shadows are used incredibly well to help add some depth to the locations. This also helps hide some of the simplicity with the predominantly white colour palette.
As you progress through the areas, clever tricks like gnarled branches and howling wolves in the foreground work beautifully against some of the backdrops. Helping to give a sense of scale, some of the camera pans naturally occur as your character travels into the background. It’s a simple tool but one that’s used in a really creative way here.
Of course, all of this aesthetic splendor would be for nothing if the game didn’t back that up with some compelling gameplay. Roki uses the point and click mechanics seen in so many other games but manages to add just enough of a creative twist to make it feel fresh. Although the game is essentially broken up into chapters, Roki feels like one big inter-connected puzzle. Each area sees you explore your environment, picking up items and solving simple and complicated puzzles to get through to the next stage. You can check which items are in your inventory and these can even be combined with a simple drag-and-drop mechanic.
Early on these puzzles are simple and easy to get past, relying on ideas like making dinner or fixing a teddy’s eye with superglue. As the game progresses and the areas open up, these puzzles become much more elaborate and see you multitasking several different tasks at once. Oftentimes these puzzles will overlap and range from finding food for a grumpy Guardian underground or helping to free a dagger wedged in a troll.
Toward the latter half of the game, the stakes are raised further when you escape a tentacled leviathan along with a few other surprises I won’t spoil here. At times the game does feel quite formulaic but despite the back-tracking and frustrating that arises from some of the more elaborate puzzles, Roki quickly dispels any ill feelings as it throws something new into the mix at just the right moment.
Roki is a self-aware title that’s aware of its own trappings. To try and combat that, the game adds some clever environmental puzzles and cut-scenes to break up the usual adventure game ideas. This is ultimately what helps Roki grow into a more memorable adventure over time and as the title progresses, you really find yourself getting invested in the lore and ideas presented. Given the emphasis on Scandinavian folklore and fairytales, Polygon Treehouse have done a wonderful job with this to add in as many weird and wonderful creatures as possible.
The music and audio throughout the game is excellent too and although the voice acting amounts to simple grunts and a variety of different toned outbursts of character names, there’s a distinct charm to this one that’s hard to deny. While there aren’t many memorable motifs or scores, there’s also not a single atmospheric track that becomes grinding or annoying while you’re trying to solve the puzzles.
Roki is a wonderfully imaginative point and click adventure game. While it doesn’t do anything particularly outstanding that hasn’t been seen before in this genre, it is a tightly written, enjoyable title nonetheless. The story has some big themes running throughout and this is backed up by some welcome ideas that switch things up late on to avoid the game stagnating. Armed with some decent visuals and a charming story, Roki is one fairytale that has enough magic to keep you playing until the end.
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Verdict - 7.5/10