Now it’s time for a game that has taken up most of my evenings lately. Road Not Taken is a roguelike game developed by Spry Fox, and it has made me childishly addicted. You are a ranger whose job is to save children who have gotten lost in a cold winter forest. Every year the children are sent in to pick special berries with rejuvenating properties, and every year some children are lost in the process…
The puzzle mechanics is easy to understand but more difficult to master. To get to the children you have to go through a number of rooms. The rooms are closed down, but can be opened by matching objects in the room; Three stones, five deer, two trees etcetera. You can either lift the objects or throw them in a straight line. And, of course, the different objects behave differently which means you have to have different tactics depending on what the rooms look like.
Every time you move something it costs you energy and this is the key part: Rearrange the objects where you want them, but do it in the most energy-efficient way. Lose you evergy and you have to start over. (All over, from the very start! Roguelike, remember?)
Some objects can also merge and turn into completely different things. If you are not careful, you will get chased by angry spirits or become stuck behind an immovable rock.
After every finished forest level you return to the city where you meet the citizens. If you bring them gifts they help you by giving useful information or equipment that gives you an advantage in the forest.
Baked into this charmingly simple (and yet deviously difficult) game is a very serious undertone. Not coincidentally, the game shares title with a poem by Robert Frost about the roads we don’t take in life. This is very subtly done but it makes the game so much more beautiful. It actually relieved my own midlife crisis but for some if may be a cause one… Either way it gives a nice depth to the game beyond just the brainteasing puzzles.
The game has, as mentioned, become an addiction for me. It has almost everything you could possibly want: Frustrating but rewarding gameplay, cute graphics, atmospheric soundtrack, and a layer of deep existensialism. There are some smaller bugs and I have run into a few rooms that are literally insolvable, but beyond that I haven’t found anything that I don’t like.
Also: It is free if you have PS+, so there are no excuses not to try it!