God of “Awwwww”
At EGX last year (you remember conventions? Those things where thousands of people all got together in one building and celebrated the things that they enjoy?) I got to go hands on with Roki, a seemingly charming throwback to the point and click days of yore, conjuring up memories of Broken Sword and Monkey Island, with a hefty dose of whimsical Scandinavian storyline to go alongside it. How does the final release shape up? Pretty well, all things told!
The first thing that hits you with Roki is the art style. More suited to a Saturday morning kids’ TV show than your average game, the art style is absolutely fantastic. Giving off a wonderful hand-painted feel, the art and animation combine together to provide a stunning backdrop to the story, which in and of itself is steeped in folklore. I played on PC with a controller, and it worked really, really well. The control scheme is pretty standard for games of this ilk, with the left stick controlling the character, until you need to open up your inventory, at which point it acts as a mouse pointer. This allows quick and easy use of the items you pick up throughout the game, as well as combine the items with other bits in your backpack as well. The mechanics and art style combine with a beautiful and relaxing soundtrack, with some suitably whimsical sound effects coming from the characters and environments alike.
The tale being woven throughout the game focuses on Tove, a girl who is trying to keep her brother Lars safe, following the death of their mother and their father’s descent into an alcoholic depressive haze. One night, Tove and Lars hear some strange rumblings outside, before the roof is ripped right off and the titular Roki appears and steals Lars away from the family home, and causing a blaze for good measure. Tove scrambles free and sets off on her quest to find Lars.
As the game trundles along, you get to meet some fantastic mythical creatures, including trolls and the wonderful but surly Yule Cat. Tove ventures into some bizarre yet gorgeous environments, and attempting to win the support of a number of beasts to help find Lars in the strange land that she has found herself in. One of the game’s strongest suits is also one of its pitfalls. The puzzle solving in the game is, by and large, pretty straightforward and sensible. The problem comes when Roki tries to get a bit more clever with them. Some of the ones in the mid game will see you backtracking across most of the environments, which is admittedly helped by unlocking some very handy fast travel spots, but some of them do feel a little bit like padding at times. I mentioned Broken Sword in the opening, and while some of the puzzles definitely take some inspiration, I’m really happy to report that there’s nothing anywhere near as devious as the infamous “goat puzzle” from Broken Sword 2!
Norse mythology seems to be the current beau in the industry, what with God of War catapulting it into the public eye, and the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla introducing it into one of the biggest franchises in the world. While the subject matter has the potential to be quite dark and serious (particularly with that opening scene), Roki never delves into horror territory, and I’d highly recommend it as a family friendly game. Characters feel well rounded, and as the story of Roki (the character) expands, you begin to see a different side to the monster that ripped the roof off, with the true nature of his aggression becoming apparent by the game’s climax. While Kratos smashes his way through Niflheim leaving a trail of blood and sparks, Tove’s story is a much, much calmer affair. Little details throughout the world add to the feeling of a cartoon, such as the mushrooms and toadstools retracting into the ground as you approach them. There are inevitable comparisons to Breath of the Wild with some of the art design, but it never feels like it’s ripping anything off, and has a really nice feel to the entire world.
I shan’t spoil the story, but as it reached the end, I found myself really engrossed in the narrative, and determined to rescue Lars. While some ‘kidnapped younger sibling’ characters in games can become incredibly irritating, I found Lars to be as adorable as Polygon Treehouse set out to make him. Whether it’s his terrified squeals as he enters a dark basement, or his obvious warming to Roki as his backstory unfurls, he’s a great character in his own right, and really earned the right to get rescued as the game went on.