Developer: Polygon Treehouse
Publisher: United Label
Genre(s): Narrative Adventure, Single-player
Platform: Xbox Series X (also available on PC, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 28/10/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
I first heard about Röki in July 2021 when a fellow Rapid Reviewer recommended it to me. I had just finished (and adored) reviewing Omno, and was looking for something to fill the void it had left. Alas, my backlog was enormous. So, after wistfully eyeing up Röki in the Steam store, it fell to the back of my mind. Fast forward to October. When I realised that there was an opportunity to review the title for Rapid Reviews, I jumped in feet first without a backward glance. Was I right to throw caution to the wind, or was I about to pay for my reckless spontaneity? Keep reading my Rapid Review to find out.
A Scandinavian-Inspired Delight
I won’t keep you in suspense for long – I can’t. Polygon Treehouse may as well have had me in mind when they were developing the game; I loved it. If I was a cat, this would be my catnip. From start to finish, Röki is a masterful fusion of emotive music, endearing sound effects, beautiful visuals, pleasantly challenging puzzles and a heart-wrenching story. It is one of those games that has such a synergy throughout that I was left in awe at the final result.
Setting the Scene
The events of Röki follow the main character, Tove. Initially she seems to be in a world comparable to our own. Subsequently, as the plot develops, we accompany her into a universe where Norse mythology is alive and kicking. The adventure is heavily influenced by Scandinavian culture and takes place in an equally Scandinavian snow-covered, mountainous, forest landscape.
Throughout Tove’s journey, a constant theme is loss. At the beginning of the tale she is coping with the loss of her mother. A short way into the game she also contemplates the loss of her brother, Lars, and her father as she rushes from the monster that first brings the old myths to life. Her childhood home is reduced to a pile of rubble with her father underneath, Lars is captured and with the love of a big sister, Tove begins to move heaven and earth in search of her precious little brother.
Tove and Lars had fled to a forest before his capture. Now that Tove finds herself alone, the woods burst with mythological life and Norse fairy-tale creatures. The path to Lars is full of meandering puzzles. Tove must dig deep in the face of emotional challenges and maintain her resolve if she is to make it to her brother in time to save him. “Save him from what?” I hear a few of you whisper. Well, you’ll have to play the game to find that out.
The Power of Words
Two of my favourite aspects of the game were the way in which speech was delivered, and the inclusion of snippets of Scandinavian languages. I have not encountered this style of voice acting before, but it manages to convey the main emotion of each piece of discourse powerfully. For each piece of dialogue, the full script is on the screen for the player to read. The voice actor either reads out one word from the dialogue, says the name of the character it relates to, or makes an expressive sound with their voice, e.g., “humph.”
It may sound unimpressive written like this, but the voice actors did a superb job of capturing the nuance of emotion flowing through each conversation. A simple grunt conveys Tove’s frustration perfectly and joy bubbles from the clipped “takk” (thank you) Tove offers to those who help her. In contrast, the longing communicated to the reader in Tove’s anguished cry of “Lars!” grasps at your heartstrings with its haunting embrace.
Röki may be a game full of puzzles, but I did not find it frustrating in the slightest. It has a wonderfully chilled out and relaxing atmosphere established by two main elements: the beautiful music and the stunning scenery which serve as a backdrop for the game. You don’t always know exactly what the objects you pick up are, or why they will be useful, but there seems to be a constant forward momentum to the game. Even at times when I had no idea how I would solve the next puzzle, I did not feel stressed. As Tove solves puzzles in the forest, she also discovers a way to travel quickly between different areas – no spoilers about how though. This fast travel ability removes any tedium that could have descended through the necessity to trudge through the forest repeatedly.
Two more aspects which contributed to the peaceful experience were the inclusion of the journal and the user-friendly control scheme. Puzzles are solved in a point-and-click style. Without a doubt, Röki has the best point-and-click controls I’ve ever used on a console. The game employs a very simple drag and drop mechanic. It’s quick to use and maintains immersion in the game. Tove’s journal also deserves a mention because it provides an efficient and accessible record of information relating to puzzles.
A Next Gen Experience
The original release of Röki was on PC on the 23rd July 2020, swiftly followed by its launch on Nintendo Switch on the 15th October 2020. This latest release of Röki is only available to play on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, not Xbox One or PlayStation 4. What’s the logic behind this? Well, Polygon Treehouse say they have done this to provide players with the best possible experience of the game, offering up 4K resolution and a frame rate of 60 FPS as tempters. This may disappoint some gamers, but it’s only available as a digital download on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5.
When it comes to determining overall enjoyment, I focus more on the content of a game and the experience this creates rather than performance. Having said that, I did feel that gameplay in Röki was smooth, transitions between areas felt seamless and I was able to let myself become fully immersed in Tove’s plight. However, near the end of the game, I did notice that the scenery did not move to catch up with my character as she moved. Even so, this only happened once or twice and I didn’t consider it to be a major hindrance.
Make Space in your Collection
Röki is the full package. It offers twelve to fifteen hours of beautiful Scandinavian scenery, relaxed puzzling and a moving musical score. Interwoven through an emotional story, tinged with loss and full of obstacles, is a taste of Scandinavian language and an enormous dose of Norse mythology. What’s not to love? Röki should absolutely be the next title to join your digital collection.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
You can purchase Röki from the Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.