The wilderness can awaken something in children – a wild imagination that seems to flourish amongst the trees and animals of the wood. The opposite is also true. Children awaken something in nature. Through their eyes the knots of ancient oaks can turn into glaring eyes, mushrooms are little people and tree hollows their tiny homes. Rivers and lakes are frozen deep with danger and possibility, whilst mountain boulders turn into great slumbering giants.
Röki is all about this kind of childhood magic. You play as Tove, a girl in search of her younger brother who’s been kidnapped by a malicious Raven. Falling through a portal, you’ll find yourself in a strange world inspired by Scandinavian folklore. The locations you’ll visit are all vividly drawn, from an imposing old stave church, a derelict, snow-encrusted mill, to a variety of secret hollows, grottos, caves and temples.
The world of Röki is a beautiful, dark fairytale land. It teems with colour and personality, but never feels twee. Even open-aired areas feel faintly haunted, despite only the gentlest of Scandinavian breezes. There’s a real cinematic feel to Röki’s presentation. As you explore, the camera glides alongside Tove, shadowy silhouettes phasing into the foreground, and there are some beautiful fixed camera angles too.
It’s clear that there’s a reverence for film and striking cinematography, with areas like “Overlook Lake” (named after the hotel from The Shining) and an early scene that feels as though it’s come right out of Hitchcock’s Birds. The soundtrack is also a standout. Wondrously soaring wind instruments fitting snugly alongside the sound of snow crunching beneath Tove’s boots, as an example.
Much of Röki revolves around its vibrant characters and creatures, who you’ll need to help out in order to further your own goal of saving your family. There’s a bridge troll that needs the dagger from its back removed, cowering frog-folk hungry for snacks and an invisible mushroom with various cauldron-pot recipes you’ll need to gather for.
A particular favourite of mine is the terrifying “Yule Cat”, with its big Cheshire cat grin, who’s self-conscious about his hair going grey. As is the ghastly “Nokken”, who’s in dire need of a curse removed. It’s difficult to communicate just how richly animated Röki’s creatures appear. Like any good children’s storybook, the images are striking and the creatures memorable.
Much of Röki plays out like a traditional point-and-click adventure game. While there’s more freedom of movement here and a bit of depth to each area, primarily you’ll still be exploring scenes, searching for objects, combining them into more helpful tools in your inventory, and dragging and dropping them on things in the environment.
Of course, this means there’s the usual drawbacks. Some tasks, particularly the cauldron recipes, feel a little like hunting for pixels. While you can press a button to highlight every interactable object on the screen, it’s still easy to miss something in the corner of an area. Often you’ll need one particular item to progress the story, and so if it happens to be somewhere you’ve previously overlooked, you’ll be forced to spend more time than you’d like tracking it down.
Röki’s saving grace is the “Tree Of Doors”, a network of ancient oaks that you can unlock throughout your journey, and then teleport back to via magical roots. Tove’s journal is also a godsend, with notes recorded for each area and a map that shows you how places connect and whether you’ve missed an area altogether.
Röki has a number of scenes where the puzzles are simple but painfully slow. There’s an unfortunate pseudo boss-fight that involves shining light at a giant spider, but there’s very little danger involved and only one way to go about it. The solution to the puzzle forms within seconds, and yet you’re forced to slowly climb up and down an area that’s far too large.
There’s also a number of dream sequences that further Röki’s story of family trauma. Some of the puzzles in these sections are similarly straight forward, but despite lasting a good chunk of time, they just don’t foster the same eureka moments as the puzzles in the main areas.
In later stages, the game’s puzzles develop as you’re given the ability to shift between worlds. While it complicates things slightly, as one world may work for traversal but may not have the object needed, and is a welcome change of pace, it doesn’t strike me as a game-changer.
Röki is at its best when you’re uncovering its strange, wondrous land and meeting its odd inhabitants. When there’s this much magic, there’s no way to predict what lies around the corner. But while it has a lot to do with folklore and childhood imagination, Röki also tells a sadder tale – of loss, mistakes made, and how we often bury tragedy, as it’s easier to forget than face the music.
Röki is as much about these things as it is a pure fantasy, and this vital element will either touch you deeply or leave you cold.
Röki is an enchanting adventure game with a world worth exploring and strange creatures worth meeting. The folklore it draws from makes for striking imagery, and pairs well with a story that weaves its way around childhood imagination and buried trauma.
- Beautiful, clean, and striking presentation
- Vivid world, locations and environments
- Fantastic soundtrack and wintry soundscape
- Wildly imaginative creatures who you’ll want to meet
- Doesn’t change the adventure game format much, so comes with the usual frustrating pitfalls
- A few puzzles can feel long-winded despite having very simple solutions