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Good adventure games are few and far between these days. The genre is defined by classics like The Secret of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Full Throttle to this day and they are in desperate need of true successors.

Sure, you can find plenty of walking simulators disguising as adventure games in every nook and cranny of Steam, and there is no shortage of puzzlers that serve no purpose other than to melt your brain. As Ron Gilbert (the creator of Monkey Island himself) once said, the appropriate reaction after solving a tough puzzle should be, “Of course, why didn’t I think of that sooner!” and not “I never would have gotten that!”, which is the case far too often.

It’s sad that Ron Gilbert’s article about the problems of the genre published way back in 2004, is surprisingly still relevant today. That’s one of the reasons me (Jay) and my pal Niranjan here on Gameffine are hesitant to pick up adventure games these days. But thanks to Steam’s excellent Spring Game Festival, we came upon Röki, a charming 3D adventure puzzler based on Scandinavian folklore, developed by Polygon Treehouse and published by United Label. Moreover, the game claims to tell a touching story about what it means to be a family while modernizing the classic adventure formula. You don’t see that too often.

 So does Röki accomplish what it sets out to do? Let’s find out 


Love, Loss, And Scandinavian Magic

Set in the backdrop of Scandinavian folklore, Röki is about a young girl Tove and her quest to rescue her brother Lars who was kidnapped by a giant monster. Before that happens though, the starting of the game gives you a chance to connect with Lars, and experience what a typical day in their life might’ve been like. The constantly-sleeping father, the tell-tale absence of the mother, and the surprising maturity of Tove seems to allude to something tragic that must’ve happened not too long ago, forcing Tove to grow up early and take care of her brother. 

If you, like us, were never exposed to Scandinavian folklore, well you’re in for a treat! A storybook sequence at the very start of the game introduces us to the basic plot that the game is set around, about the four giant guardians of the forest – Jötunbjörn the bear, Jötunúlfur the wolf, Jötunhjort the stag and Rörka the raven. As Tove reads it as a bedtime story to Lars, you’re told the tale of how Rörka fell in love with a human and gave birth to a monster, for which the other three siblings banished her forever as punishment.

Anyway, once the story gets going, you enter a fascinatingly beautiful but lonesome fairy-tale world and meet Trollsisters, Krokelings, Tomtes, a Nokken, and other magical creatures. Each of them offers puzzles to solve, and stories that range from funny and charming to sad and at times, terrifying. Rest assured, they’re never boring. Each new character we met and the locations we explored made us increasingly motivated to explore and learn more about the world.

In basic terms, the objective of the game is to rouse the guardians of the forest so that they can assist you in saving your brother before it’s too late. The big bad of the story as you will gradually discover is not a big ‘bad’ at all. They don’t have an evil smile and some silly masterplan to take over the entire world. I can confidently say that this game features one of the best and most relatable villains in recent memory. 

Tove, meanwhile, has some unprocessed trauma from her past that she needs to deal with, and these are told through some amazingly designed dream – or rather, nightmare – sequences at certain points in the game. These have an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vibe at times and without a shadow of a doubt, are some of our favorite parts of the game. 

Along with her story, the story of the guardians, and that of the villain, Röki tells a multifaceted, beautifully moving tale about what it means to be a family, sibling love, and how hard it is for families to come together after a devastating trauma. And no, we’re not talking about the stupid, shallow, macho definition of familia that the Fast and the Furious movies preach, we mean the dichotomy of tender love and harsh bitterness that a real, authentic family with complex interpersonal relationships can bring forth. 

A Modern Take on the Classic Formula

Gameplay-wise, Röki cozily fits into the adventure game formula solidified by the Lucas Arts and Microïds classics. At its core, Röki is an old-school adventure game with a heavy focus on exploration and puzzle-solving. However, the aspect that sets Röki apart from many of its peers is its emphasis on non-linear exploration, especially in the second act.

You are dropped into the gorgeous and mysterious 3D world after a short prologue with just the general objective of saving your brother. Even though the game sometimes railroads the player down specific paths, you are given the freedom to tackle objectives in any particular order for the majority of the campaign.

The exploration in Röki is highly engaging and smooth thanks to the detailed handcrafted environments, as well as the butter smooth controls. Exploration is made further hassle-free thanks to the interconnected environments and the well-placed fast travel portals. Moreover, the loading screens in the game are extremely quick and don’t take you out of the experience while fast traveling or when moving from one area to another.

At the heart of Röki lies the puzzles – the bread and butter of classic adventure games that either break or make them. For the most part, the puzzles in Röki tread tried and tested ground. Most puzzles fall into the category of finding items in the environment, combining various items to create new ones, and using the correct items in the correct place. For example, one puzzle involves collecting ingredients from different locations to make a sleeping draught so that you can pull off a Cosby by disguising it as a tea and serving it to a troll in order to steal his flute. 

The puzzles in the game are logical, sometimes clever, but never overly complex. Aside from one or two instances, we hardly got stuck for more than five minutes while solving them. That doesn’t mean that Röki insults your intelligence and holds your hand throughout its 12-hour runtime. It doesn’t. There is hardly any handholding in the game nor are there objective markers. But thanks to the scrap-book-like journal that auto-updates and NPCs up for a chat, it never reaches the level of annoyance or frustration.

Just when you think you’re getting tired of doing the same type of puzzles, Röki completely switches up the formula during Act 3. It’d be a dick move to spoil it for you – just know that puzzle lovers will be in for a treat. Thanks to the game’s ability to constantly reinvent itself, the gameplay of Röki feels fresh and doesn’t feel like it’s overstaying its welcome.


But no game is perfect and Röki isn’t safe from criticism. Even though the game tries its best to avoid pixel-hunting, there are certain vital items that can easily be overlooked due to the detailed environments. Thankfully, there is a dedicated key for highlighting items in the environment and we highly recommend you keep that pressed every second of the way.

While we did say that there are no frustrating puzzle-solving moments, there are a handful of sections that had us scratching our heads. And while the journal is handy, it sometimes fails to update some crucial quest information which, if you’re coming back to the game after a few days, can lead to some confusion.

Another minor gripe we have with Röki is the amount of backtracking present in the second act. The frequent fast travel points alleviate most of the tedium, but we still felt that there were just too many back and forth moments.

Then there is the small amount of bugs leftover in the game. Most bugs can be solved with a restart, but I did encounter a nasty bug during a flashback sequence that forced me to go back to an older area and exit in a particular way multiple times to get past. Another notable bug is the epilogue not being played after the credits rolled. Thankfully, I did not have to restart the campaign as the game treated me to an autosave from the last set-piece (Do note that the devs have said that the game will receive a launch day update that will hopefully fix all of these issues).

Mysteriously Enchanting

The locations in the game are beautiful with pretty much no exceptions, and there are quite a few moments where we just had to stop a minute to take it all in. The variety in the camera angles and zoom-outs is welcome, especially in the large-scale areas. Seeing little Tove gradually shrinking in the face of a mountaintop, for example, lets you truly experience the epic scope of the environment. Such moments are honestly jaw-dropping in how gorgeous the game looks and how epic it feels. 

The character designs are top-notch: charming when they need to be, majestic and awe-inspiring when it comes to the Guardians, and creepy and terrifying when it comes to the villain. There’s honestly nothing to complain about in this department, the visuals are pulled off perfectly.

While visually a knocker, Röki had a hard time keeping a stable 60 fps on my PC. The game randomly dipped to the mid-40s and stayed there, but other times, the numbers would magically pop back to 60 and remain constant for quite a while in the same maps. However, if you aren’t running an FPS counter, it’s easy to stay oblivious to the frame drops as animations in the game are very slow and most of the environments have static backdrops.

The music is top-tier as well and is excellent at setting the tone. It’s calming and serene for the most part but also carries a certain melancholic weight to it that reflects the narrative. There is no voice-acting, which at first was a source of disappointment to us, but hey, no voice-acting is better than bad voice-acting. That would have definitely taken away from some of the more powerful story moments. Still, we can’t help but imagine what it could’ve been like with talented voice-actors. Instead of voice acting, the tone of the dialogue is distilled into general expressive sounds, like in a Zelda or Sims title for example. 


Thanks to how well Röki deals with the themes regarding the importance of family, I’m sure all of us will find something to connect to in Röki‘s narrative, and those looking for well-designed puzzles will find them in spades here. Röki also promises to be a great streaming game, or a backseat gaming candidate thanks to just how good it looks and sounds.

Röki is solid across the board. The narrative, visuals, sound, and – what we were most concerned about – the gameplay, all not only met but surpassed our collective expectations. It modernizes the classic adventure formula with a deft hand, and resurrected our childhood passion for the genre – the developers no doubt are passionate about the genre and clearly know what they’re doing.

Pick this one up at full price, you won’t be disappointed. This is one for the books.


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