Röki is a point-and-click adventure game inspired by Scandinavian folklore. At first glance, the game looks like a sweet fantasy caper bathed in fireside glow and hygge. But scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find a dark, contemporary fairytale oozing with poignancy.
Röki is the debut game of British indie studio, Polygon Treehouse. Founded by two ex-Guerrilla Games Art Directors, their mission is to create art-led narrative games that pack an emotional punch. If you enjoy playing non-violent story-driven games, you should check out our review of No Longer Home. It’s a new point-and-click with heaps of heart and big Kentucky Route Zero vibes.
I’m reviewing Röki on PS5 but the game was originally released on PC and Switch in 2020. Excited to give Röki a go? Give us a shout in the comments below. Played the original PC version? Let us know how you think it compares.
Set in the snow-capped Scandinavian wilderness, you control the kind, quick-witted Tove as she plays Mother to her little brother, Lars. Their Papa, Henrik, is a shadow of his former self. After his wife died several years ago, he gave up trying to be a good Father. Instead, he spends his days asleep by the fire with a bottle of booze and some pickled herrings. When Tove tucks Lars into bed one night, a giant creature smashes through the walls, kidnapping Lars and destroying the family cabin in the process.
With Henrik trapped underneath the fire and rubble, Tove escapes to the forest in search of her brother. After her brush with the creature, Tove can now see all the magical inhabitants of the forest whose help she must gain in order to rescue Lars.
Gameplay in Röki is based on dragging, dropping and combining items that you find throughout the world to solve puzzles. When the monster attacks, Tove seeks refuge in the basement. Searching around for supplies you find a flashlight – except, yep, it’s missing a battery. After racking your brain, you glance over to the dancing toy robot that Lars is playing with. Dragging the screwdriver over to remove the battery, Tove wonders why Papa hid all their childhood toys down here. After finding more trinkets from the past, you realise that these objects are loaded with emotional resonance: they remind Papa of a time when his wife was still alive.
Rather than being an element of interactivity tacked on to a narrative, each puzzle is a masterclass in environmental storytelling. They not only challenge you at the basic gameplay level but also deepen your understanding of each character.
Into the Woods
Traversing the magical forest is simply joyful. As you scurry down burrows and stumble across clearings, you’re filled childlike wonder. Movement and controls are simply yet effective and being able to explore the world in a non-linear fashion means you can go at your own pace.
There are times when the level design doesn’t quite work, though. Pushing L3 helpfully highlights objects in the world that you can interact with. However, some key items are really small and hard to spot even when highlighted which leaves you scratching your head in frustration. This probably isn’t an issue on PC where you’re usually sat close to a monitor, but on console it’s a different story. This can sometimes disrupt the pace of an otherwise beautifully fine-tuned game.
On the flip side, Röki creates the most pleasurable Eureka moments when you realise a seemingly unimportant item that you’ve been carrying from the start is the key to cracking the next puzzle.
Röki‘s story is peppered with grief and loss, from the Troll sisters separated by the blighted forest to their brothers frozen in stone. Despite the looming darkness, each of the forest’s inhabitants are charming, funny and kind. The dialogue and characterisation is extremely well-drawn. In particular, Tove, who exudes wisdom and wit beyond her age.
There are moments of peace, though, among the darkness. Cosiness even. Finding ingredients to brew a sleeping tea for your friend, Trollhilde, you wander the serene landscape in search of fairytale flowers. It’s in these small interactions that Röki‘s heart bursts with joy.
Graphics & Audio
Röki is a stunning visual masterpiece painted in clean blocks of colour and light. It’s honestly some of the best animation I’ve ever seen in a game. When you accompany Lars to the outside toilet late at night, moonlight bathes the yard in strange twilight reds and purples. As you ramble through the forest, parallax-scrolling trees creep by in the foreground, like an illustration right out of a fairytale. The game looks well polished thanks to the gorgeous 4K resolution and silky smooth 60fps, with absolutely no hint of any framerate drops or graphical glitches.
The soundscape in Röki is sublime. As you trek through the woods, you feel the magnitude of each sound reverberating around the canopies – the caw of ravens, the wind through the trees. Music is incredibly expressive and heightens the mood of each scene. When you’re riding your sleigh down the mountainside, calm strings and keys gain tempo and morph into an 80s synth vibe which ramps the tension right up to 11.
For me, it’s the little things in Röki that make all the difference. The attention to detail here is so great that you can even hear the crunch of snow compacting against your boots as you trudge through the frozen wilderness. It’s honestly more satisfying than a thousand ASMR videos.
Röki is a gorgeous adventure game full of heart and soul. The magical world you explore is a joy to behold, yet it never shies away from tackling the big stuff. There are moments when you’ll be hit with a deep pang of emotion that will absolutely floor you. Other times, you won’t be able to keep that grin off your face. Like the best fairytales, the light always follows the dark.