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Aug 6, 2014

Road Not Taken (Video Game) Review

Publisher: Spry Fox LLC Developer: Spry Fox LLC Genre: Indie Release Date: 5 Aug 2014

Review: Most games (and other media) have a tendency to put their themes right in your face, written in such ways that the audience couldn't possibly miss the point. Road Not Taken doesn't do this. It's sublimely subtle as the deceptively benign surface theme melts apart, slowly revealing a story of life and loss. Even as that becomes apparent, even deeper themes are lurking to be discovered by the keenly aware.

The theme and story work beautifully with the setting and game objectives. Your goal, as an outsider to a quiet village, is to venture into the dark woods to find children who have been lost and reunite them with their parents.

The game play is best described as a Matching Puzzle Roguelike. The forest is made up of randomly generated screens. The player has the ability to life almost any object they come across. Pressing the same button, the player can throw that object across the screen until it hits something. Moving while having an object lifted will drain precious energy. While this cannot be avoided in all cases, the strategy and planning comes into play when trying to minimize energy loss by creatively pushing objects. In many ways, this is an evolution of the classic "Slide the block on the ice" mechanic. Some objects can be combined when placed adjacently to each other to create new objects. Combine an Ax with a Tree and you make a Log. Combine two logs, and you make a fire. There are lots of combinations with lots of room to create your own strategy by cleverly using them. Each screen also has one or more entrances to another screen, however they are initially blocked. Each exit has a sign post with the requirements to unblock it. Meet the requirement, and you can pass through.

The main goal is to find children in the forest. Sometimes, parents can be found looking for their children. Combining a parent with a child saves that child and it leaves the forest safely. When no parents can be found, the child can be pushed from screen to screen and is finally saved when thrown near the entrance to the village.

There are over a hundred different objects to be found in the forest, most of them with unique properties that throw variety into the puzzles. Rocks that change color when thrown, Wolves that run from you but attack when cornered, Boulders that push other objects when flung into them, Owls that follow your every step, and more. The degree of unique properties found from object to object is impressive, and each one puts its own spin on the challenges of the game.

While most screens are randomly generated, there is a collection of pre-designed rooms that may appear in your play through. They're typically little tableaus, but many are hand-crafted puzzles. These rooms are challenging, but with big rewards. You can fail the puzzle and be prevented from reaping the reward, but don't worry, you'll run into that room on a subsequent playthrough and get another shot at it.

This isn't a game you've likely experienced before. If you like Roguelikes, and you like Puzzles, and you like charm, and you like depth, this is one to check out.
Verdict: 85/100
OS: Windows XP
Memory: 2 GB RAM

OS: Windows 7
Memory: 6 GB RAM


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