The current state of pop culture has utilized Scandinavian folklore quite a lot over the few decades but has always used it in one of two ways – Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales or Norse mythology. The thing that both of these depictions have in common, from The Snow Queen to Thor to God of War, is that they are decidedly very violent. Unless you only count the Disney versions (which are still pretty dark), the often twisted Scandinavian folklore has always been handled in a fairly specific way. Now, along comes Roki, a classic point-and-click adventure game that transports you into a beautifully designed world, as big sister Tove must help all manner of fanciful creatures to save her younger brother, Lars, from an evil sorceress.
After Lars is kidnapped into a magical realm, Tove must do everything in her power to get her brother back before he is consumed by the evil sorceress trying to turn her own monstrous child human. In order to do so, Tove must traverse the land and help out trolls, gnomes, and the trapped souls of the damned. In addition to working through her traumas, she collects items and uses them to solve puzzles. The puzzles aren’t simply riddles you solve in one screen to advance, but a series of artifacts scattered across the land that you must track down. Some of these items require a little assembly within Tove’s backpack, but without fail, all of the items you find are useful and needed.
Easy Mode Puzzles
Of course, sometimes it’s not so easy to know that items are those you need to pick up. Tove often comments on something because you don’t currently have the proper item to collect it in, or you need to complete another puzzle before it can be used. For the most part, this is up to you to decipher, but they aren’t exactly making you rack your brain when you pick things up. However, you’re equipped with a classic, clickable option that highlights all of the things you can interact with currently on the screen. This is a real double-edged sword, though.
On the one hand, it is beneficial to let you know not just what you can do at the moment, but Tove also gives you helpful information about the object that is a significant indicator for when you eventually do pick up the piece you need. Without it, it is pretty easy to run past an item you desperately need to advance the scene before being defeated by the snow pile hidden by a bad camera angle behind a tree. However, the downside is that you can spam the button, and it removes any critical thinking you may need to do to solve any of the puzzles. When used sparingly, it is a handy tool, but I fear there are too many impatient people who will undermine the quality of the game with rampant abuse of the indicator.
In nearly every other regard, Roki is a gem. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, one of the best parts of playing this game. Every screen is beautiful, and its eye-catching appeal is simply a delight. There will be detractors about any text-driven game, but with the visuals and the well-done score, I barely even noticed it. Among the most significant things that have been the bane of my existence lately are poor controls in port games. Playing this on my PlayStation, the ease of gameplay was amplified by the intuitive controls – something I was quite thankful for. I was also grateful that while Roki is family-friendly, it’s not a simplistic game. You’re not going to need a guided walk-through to get through Roki, but there were enough times that I was stumped and had to take a pause and really think about what I could do with the items I had. It may seem like a throwaway compliment for the game, but I have played puzzle games with absurd learning curves or puzzles that were too complicated, undoing the story’s momentum. Or games that are ruined by being insultingly easy or having bad controls. Roki doesn’t get bogged down in any of this but still challenges you as you help Tove navigate the magical landscape.
Overall, Roki was a big win in my book. Initially, I found its family-friendly focus to be a detriment to my enjoyment in my first sitting with it. In my second, I began to appreciate more of what it was going for, and in my third sitting, I played for 5 hours without even realizing it. Roki has a lot going for it, including a unique story, well-done but straightforward mechanics, and a simply beautiful art style. Don’t let this one slip past you like a tomte hiding in his hat.
***PlayStation 5 code provided by the publisher for review***
Charming story steeped in folklore is a welcome change of pace
Beautiful art style
Accessible game mechanics make for a fun adventure
Overuse of discover mode undermines the puzzles