Roki Review – Down the Rabbit Hole
Developer: Polygon Treehouse
Release Date: July 23, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: United Label, CI Games
Puzzle adventures come in all shapes and sizes. They aim to challenge the player through various means as their narrative unravels with each completed task. The Polygon Treehouse-developed Roki takes this approach but injects a sense of imagination and discovery as we dive into a world of Scandinavian folklore through the means of a motivated young girl.
Roki introduces us to an adventurous girl named Tove and her younger brother Lars. Their mother passed away around the time Lars was born, and Tove took up the responsibility of taking care of him and helping their father. Throughout the game, you’ll learn more about the burdens that she bares through various trials to uncover just how complex of a character she is.
One night, a massive creature attacks the house and kidnaps Lars. Tove follows in pursuit and ends up in a fantasy world where trees can speak, and trolls are real. These fantasy creatures know of humans, but they also know that Tove shouldn’t be there. As she helps them out, she gains access to new areas in search of guardians who can let her know how to save her brother.
I’d hate to give away the story any further, but it can get rather dark at times. Tove is a bit over her head, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of her determination. I think she’s a wonderful protagonist who carries many elements of the story. I ended up playing if just to match her inability to give up. It’s inspiring in a way because as you learn more about her, you really get the sense of how she came to be this way.
The characters who Tove meets along the way are each inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and they definitely sell this fairy tale theme. It’s as if you are subtly learning about these mythological creatures without really even knowing it. Such as one magical creature who you feed si it helps you out or how female trolls live longer than male ones.
The world of Roki is concentrated, but still reasonably large. The game has a fast travel system where you can step into portals residing in trees, which makes getting around easier. However, there’s a lot of backtracking, and although Tove can run, you’ll definitely wish she could be a bit faster after you find yourself running through an area for the tenth time.
Regardless, I loved the environments as they each provided some new mystery to solve. To add to exploration, Tove has a notebook that she likes to fill with information. Accessing the book will allow her to read about quest lines and jot down details about particular items found throughout the world. This gives you more ways to interact with the environment instead of just focusing on the puzzles.
Speaking of which, there are a lot of puzzles in Roki. In nearly every area, players will have to solve some sort of riddle or interact with certain items to progress. Items are easily accessed from a menu where players can drag and drop them to see if they work. Items can also be combined to create new things that might prove to be even more helpful. This design reminded me of classic point-and-click adventures instead of straight puzzle-solving, which I ended liking a lot.
At no point does Roki try to rush the player through the narrative. You are pretty much free to move around at your own pace. The puzzles do get challenging, but some of that challenge stems from just not completing events in the right orders. Things like, “I know what I’m supposed to do, I just don’t have the tools to do it.” comes up often here. Luckily, the trees can give you some hints, or you can check your notebook, but the game never hands out answers to you.
Direction can be a bit of an issue with Roki as sometimes it’s just not clear where you can and can’t go. On the plus side, there’s a way to highlight each of the interactable objects in a room. Still, I wished that this highlighted any exits because the environment sometimes just blends together so well that you don’t know what’s a path and what’s not.
The world of Roki is quite beautiful from the various environments to the character designs. I loved how each area provides a new sense of discovery or piece of the puzzle. This is coupled with a compelling soundtrack and a minimalistic audio design for the characters.
Roki is challenging and captivating during each moment of gameplay. The narrative flows naturally alongside the puzzles, and the world acts as a beautiful set-piece that begs to be explored. Direction and backtracking can bring the pacing down a bit in the later parts, but the conclusion makes every obstacle worth it.
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