There is something to be said for folk tales. Growing up, most of us are exposed to a surprising number of different cultures through short stories. The story of Rapunzel, for instance, is from Germany; Beauty and the Beast has its origins in France; The Little Mermaid is a Danish tale – all of these and more are gateways to legends from all around the world and a glimpse at the hopes and fears of the people from those places. Nemoria Entertainment’s Oknytt (PC single-player) has the look and feel of a traditional folk tale. A point-and-click adventure, Oknytt definitely has its flaws, and sadly, a fair number of people will not give it a glance due to it’s aesthetics – but if you have patience and enjoy a good folk tale (as well as some beautiful art and masterful voice work), this title has a surprising depth that will draw you in and allow you to enjoy some interesting Swedish folklore.
The story begins with a furry little creature crawling out of a small grave (essentially, a cairn). The little creature has a large nose and glowing eyes, and has a sense of innocence and curiosity about it. This character wonders about how it came to be into the world, searching for meaning. And so your journey begins, wandering through the countryside, looking for answers by performing small quests (usually for other odd creatures that you meet in your travels) and solving various puzzles.
The interface is quite clever. The left mouse button is used to move your creature with a single click. You can also use the left mouse button to select objects; if you hold it down for a few seconds, it spawns a secondary menu with three different options: information, dialogue, and interaction. Information gives you a brief description of the object or creature in question; dialogue will either start a conversation (if it’s a creature that you have selected), or it will trigger some helpful self reflection; and interaction does exactly that – physically interacts with the object. The right mouse button opens up your inventory. Inventory items can be selected and combined (if possible).
As you make your way through the game, you can do a little bit of reading about some of the characters.
It doesn’t take long to realize that the adventure aspect of Oknytt makes it very similar to other experiences, where you’re constantly trying to click on every object you come across to see what it does (and how it fits into the story). Adding a bit of a twist to this is the Rune menu located along the bottom of the screen. This menu is composed of four “stones” that each have an elemental power, which, when clicked, may affect the environment in some way. For instance: one of the screens has a smouldering fire pit; clicking the “fire” rune will ignite this pit, causing it to heat up tremendously for a small period of time.
Normally, I’d find this sort of mechanism tedious; but I find it hard to feel any malice toward a game that is so beautifully produced. While not a “triple A” title, Oknytt has a home-grown feel to it that is hard to deny. The painted art style is inspired by Swedish painter John Bauer, and makes great use of contrasts (primarily black and white) to really highlight any of the small amount of colour that is introduced from time to time. The voice work is also amazing, as it is all done by the very talented Brian Hall. Together, these elements create the feeling of a bedtime storyteller.
Playing Oknytt is not going to appeal to you if you’re looking for an outlet for testosterone-laden mayhem. It is, however, a fantastic way to wind down the day and relax. With a friendly save system, a beautiful premise (augmented by clever voice work and wonderful design), and a plethora of information about the Swedish folklore, this is a game that is in a class of its own. You can find Oknytt on Steam Greenlight.