Röki had me from the moment Tove, our protagonist, and her little brother, Lars, arrive home at the beginning of the game’s extended prologue. Home being a quaint cabin near the lake, surrounded by layers of dense trees and, beyond them, snow-capped mountains. The place is beautiful, but look past the halcyon visage and you’ll start to notice the cracks.
The lonely wind chimes. The crumpled well. The depleted snowman. The two grave stones. Each one has a story to tell, each one painting a picture of a fragmented family with a big, mum-sized hole in the centre.
Home brings a new depth to Tove’s vocal expressions (the characters express themselves with aural gestures that evoke context-dependent emotions). There’s a hint of sadness and longing, but also of a strength and resilience that’s a result of that pain. This sense of living with and surviving loss hangs over the entire game, lending Röki real poignancy and emotional complexity.
It’s not something I expected from a game that looked like a fun combination of cute and scary built around Scandinavian folklore, but that’s exactly what Polygon Treehouse have done. It’s what makes Röki one of the best games I’ve played all year.