Once upon a time, there lived a boy, his sister, and their father, in a cabin in the woods. This was no ordinary boy, and these were no ordinary woods… Developed by Polygon Treehouse, Roki is a beautiful, soulful, and emotional experience. Inspired by Scandinavian folklore, players are transported into an epic yet somber fairy tale full of helpful trolls, mischievous tomte, and a great many wonders. You’ll take on the role of Tove, older sister to the playful and imaginative Lars. It has been some time since their family met with the tragic loss of their mother. Living in a cabin in the woods with their father, Tove has taken on the responsibility of caring for her little brother who swears he can hear and speak with the creatures of the forest. One night, a terrible monster attacked their home. Tove and Lars barely manage to get away, but in their escape they find themselves in a strange new place…
From the opening minutes of Roki you’ll no doubt notice the beautiful aesthetic of the game. Shapes appear in strong, solid colors with minimal outlining. The tones are both earthy and yet ethereal to cement the surreal, fairy tale nature of the narrative. Not only is it beautiful to behold, the smooth motion of animations and subtle details make for an incredibly immersive experience. Shadows in the foreground add to the field of depth, and when you first realize you can explore almost anywhere on screen – leaving a trail in the snow with the sound of soft powder beneath your feet – the game suddenly feels much bigger.
The Fairy Tale you Didn’t Know you Needed
Roki is very rich in Scandinavian lore. Everything from the magical creatures you encounter down to the very nature of the story itself – the idea of loss and trying to find your family again – beckons back to the classic folklore style we are familiar with. Tove is scared but brave. She is following her heart to make things right, and it isn’t handled in a Disney, “everything will be fine” kind of way. There are tense moments you aren’t entirely sure how they will play out and in that, it almost grounds the story in a relatable realism. This may not be the first indie game to lean heavily into Scandinavian lore, but it certainly has handled it the best.
When it comes to gameplay, Roki offers players a simple yet unique blend of point-and-click style puzzle solving with the freedom and mobility of an adventure game. Many point-and-click games make each room their own puzzle, however the freedom Roki offers creates a more expansive and thought provoking experience. You may pick up an item you don’t need to use for half an hour in a completely different location. It’s all about your ability to assess the situation and find the best possible answer. While the game offers a stark minimalistic approach, there were times I found it easy to get lost in my objective. Thankfully the game world isn’t too expansive so it is easy enough to retrace your steps and get back on track. Even the harder puzzles Roki has to offer can be overcome with patience and logic. I never felt stuck, only challenged to change my way of thinking.
While Roki has proven to be fascinating in its aesthetic, narrative, and enjoyable gameplay, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on the exquisite soundtrack. Not only is sound effects such as the aforementioned snow underfoot or the grumble of trolls particularly on point, but the music does absolute wonders for setting the tone of any given scene. Intensity, fear, curiosity; we rarely see Tove’s face but we get a picture perfect understanding of the emotional struggle she is going through with every note and chord. It can be soothing and it can be anxiety-inducing. The music is a powerful tool in Roki and one expertly used to further connect the player to the tale of Tove and Lars.
Roki is yet again proof of the power an indie game can bring to the industry. It’s a game that makes you feel the emotional turmoil of Tove and Lars. It sets you into a rich world of folklore and magic with its stage design and color choices without being over-saturated or childish, and the soundtrack is moving and soulful. The freedom to explore the world of Roki coupled with its easy point-and-click mechanics to solve puzzles make for an engaging yet simple experience. I didn’t realize how easily I could lose five hours into this game and even after that time I wanted to keep going. Roki is clever, moving, and engaging. For those who find puzzle games interesting but the point-and-click genre a little dull, this is a fantastic middle ground that you will happily get lost in.
**Steam code provided by the publisher**
- Beautiful Art Style
- Engaging Narrative
- Captivating Soundtrack
- Challenging Puzzles
- Little Guidance
- Notebook Feels Cluttered