Road Not Taken Review
15Named after Robert Frost’s poem, “Road Not Taken”, the game follows a somewhat a somewhat abstract storyline of a little ranger guy who was on a journey when he accidentally stumbled onto a little village that was seeking the aid of anyone who could help the villagers bring back the lost children. So let’s dig in to Spry Fox’s puzzle game and see what it is all about.
By the way, we also showcased the game during one of our Indies LIVE episodes which you can find here.
One of the most important things to note about the game is that it is a roguelike experience with procedurally generated levels, meaning that there are limitless possibilities as to what a player can experience throughout the game. Having said that, it is also important to mention that anything we do in the game, affects the world around us and how the villagers will respond to us. Befriending one but not another will have consequences. Those are not that great but still help with experiencing the game differently due to the different items that we receive now and then from each NPC.
Road Not Taken is basically a puzzle game at its core, relying on the smart movement of objects on screens that divided spaces into little squares. The player moves around the little ranger from one box to another, allowing him to push and also combine things now and then. There are enemies all around and there are also all other kinds of things that can help us in our journeys. The main goal of the game is to rescue as many children as possible by putting them adjacent to a mother that can be found in the stage. In order to unlock paths we need to get things together or even kill enemies at times. It sounds simple, but it can get complicated very fast.
The game provides more than 200 items to discover that can be made or reverse engineered into through the combination of various things. The game helps us remember all those things by providing us with a little booklet where all the combinations we’ve tried in the past get saved into it. Other than that, there are all sorts of charms and items that will make our life easier by providing us with buffs or general bonuses in our quest. For example, there is a charm that gives us more starting energy. Energy is generally spent every time we make a movement while carrying an object, or when particular enemies hit us.
The gameplay plays out in a very similar manner to games such as Crypt of the Necrodancer, where enemies only move every time you move. Road Not Taken came first though, so this explanation would firstly be made the other way around. That allows for a lot of tactical thinking and planning since time is not that important in the game. As long as you do the right moves and end up saving the children, then you have done your job just fine. For the people that are looking for a more demanding experience, then there is the timed run of course. The roguelike puzzle gameplay has tons of variations to it allowing for a lot of replayability.
The story goes with years and every year we get to experience a new quest of going out to find more lost children. We receive all sorts of items from our quests that we can later gift to various villagers to gain their affection. Different relationship standings with each character will reward us with all kinds of charms and items that we can use in our quests or gift to other people in the village. This brings another element into the game, making it a bit more interesting and have a way of providing some kind of progression in a roguelike game like it as well. Road Not Taken is quite punishing though, since if we lose in our quest, and have no way of coming back immediately, then we are teleported back at our little house (which was kindly provided to us by the village’s mayor) with all of our belongings removed from us. We basically start from scratch.
Unfortunately, the game does not have that much content in the end-game and thus feels a bit stale once you reach that point. Lovers of the genre will most definitely find reasons to keep playing it but other than those big fans, the rest might feel as if they do not have any more incentives to keep at it and explore it more. Apart from that, the sometimes frustrating and slow gameplay will put off some players that may not want to put too much time into figuring out really hard puzzles that were randomly created just for them. I mention the “randomly created” because, when you get stuck with something like that in other games, you can at least look online for a solution and keep going. But whatever the situation, in Road Not Taken, we are forced to figure it out by ourselves.
Besides the gameplay and story parts, the art of the game is also really well done. The game has a very cute appeal to it with a very minimalistic design on characters, almost chibi-style for the most part. I personally felt it is quite fitting since anything else would have just looked too dark and serious for this kind of a game. Next to that, the music doesn’t provide something all too interesting but manages to blend nicely with the rest of the atmosphere that the game brings. You won’t remember it once you stop playing, but you won’t remember it for bad reasons either. Which is good, since it goes unnoticed and carries the experience for what it focuses on, which in this case would be the gameplay and not the visual or aural art of it.
Last but not least, the price of the game may make some people look away from it. It may not be all that much, but most people are used to buying puzzle games at way lower prices, thus forcing a bad habit upon them, which is to not justify buying any game of that genre at a higher price. The game does have a lot of content and the players that like this kind of games, they will most definitely enjoy it since I found it to be a treat for all of my puzzle-solving needs.
Road Not Taken is available on Steam for the price of 14,99 euro.
Road Not Taken brings a puzzle world full of different combination made out of an abundance of different items that are all sketched in the cutest of ways. Its price may be a bit higher than we are used to for this kind of game, but the replayability value of the game is reason enough for someone to purchase the game. The lack of end-game content may be an issue but getting there will take most people a very long time anyway, so it is not like there is not enough content to appreciate and enjoy in the game. Fans of the genre should definitely have this in their games library.
+ Sokoban-style puzzling experience
+ Cute, chibi-style visuals
+ Lots of content
+ Good replayability value
+ Story affected by player’s actions, a little bit, but still enough to be interesting
– Price might be a bit higher than one would expect
– Lack of end-game content
– Sometimes frustrating or slow gameplay
-Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis