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One of the big takeaways from the explosion in indie game development is that genres once thought to be left behind have been given a new lease of life, as passionate creators revive styles of play for appreciative niche audiences.
That’s certainly the case with Röki, a charming adventure game that owes much of its structure and gameplay to 1990s classics like Monkey Island. Yes, it’s a point-and-click adventure, in which you progress the story by solving puzzles using the items and characters you find around the locations.
In terms of aesthetics, however, Röki couldn’t be more different to its peers from yesteryear. Set in the remote wintry forests of Sweden, it uses a beguiling illustrated style to spin a story that is by turns whimsical and powerful.
Our heroine is Tove, a plucky girl who looks after her little brother Lars while their father drinks and sleeps at home, pining for his dead wife. This dark flourish gives Tove’s story a little more grit than the picturebook graphics might suggest.
She’s immediately a more rounded character, her enthusiasm for Lars’ childish games tempered with a subtle weariness from the knowledge that she’s the responsible one in the household now. That developer Polygon Treehouse gets this emotional nuance across through simply crafted figures and dialogue captions is truly impressive.
Things quickly take a more fanciful twist, as their home is attacked by a gigantic troll, and after helping Tove navigate the wreckage her beloved brother is gone, spirited away into the moonlit trees by supernatural forces.
Röki, then, is a coming-of-age tale of sorts, but also an exploration of Scandinavian folklore, and one of its greatest pleasures across its playing time is seeing how those two themes feed into each other rather than remaining separate. As Tove learns more about the landscape she’s grown up in, she learns more about herself.
The classic graphic adventure genre was typified by its often obtuse puzzles, where bizarre object combinations had to be worked out in order to inch the plot forwards. That’s thankfully not the case here, and while there are plenty of moments that will require serious thought the answer is never so ridiculously leftfield that you’re left feeling cheated when you work it out. The world operates consistently, and the usefulness of items always becomes clear through logical thought instead of random chance.
As visually lush as the game is, it’s not one that is going to test your gaming rig. As long as you have something better than an Intel Core i5 2500 or AMD FX 6350 and a Intel HD Graphics 530 or Radeon RX Vega 8 GPU, it will run just fine.
It’s not a long game, but the time spent lost in its world is still well spent. Games like this survive or fall on the strength of their puzzles and the appeal of their stories, and Röki delivers confidently in both areas. It’s a little odd that the game has launched in the summer, as its tone is much better suited to the darker evenings of fall and winter, but whether you experience it now or later in the year, you’re sure of a journey you won’t forget.
Danielle has been in love with video games ever since her older brothers handed down their PS1 instead of buying her a Christmas present. She grew up fighting her way through epic JRPGs. Now, you're more likely to find her destroying her Sim's lives, causing absolute mayhem over in Azeroth, and slowly paying off her debt to Tom Nook.