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Road Not Taken Review

Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Spry Fox
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
August 5, 2014

Life can be harsh. When you wander outside the safety of the village walls, you must contend with all sorts of deadly obstacles, and that includes enemies and the inevitable Father Time. In Road Not Taken , you really can’t even count on your memory, as the procedurally generated levels keep you on your toes throughout, forcing you to adapt on the fly. The game is somewhat tedious and occasionally frustrating, but its challenge, imagination, and unbounded creativity make it well worth trying. Just be patient and remember, the brain is your most effective weapon.

The first positive aspect of Spry Fox’s game is clear within the first few minutes: It’s a charming, sometimes charismatic and emotional visual presentation, which is always a huge bonus. You don’t need a massive budget and photorealilstic graphics to tell a great story or convey sentiment. These sprites are very expressive and despite the bleakness of the situation, you’re always surrounded by a certain lightness and cuteness. There’s not a ton of variety, even with the randomly generated levels, but this is a well-appointed, beautifully designed little game that often gives us reasons to smile.

The music matches that charming display and it adds another dimension to a surprisingly immersive experience. When exploring, you’ll hear pretty yet haunting melodies, accompanied by subtle environmental effects. That subtlety encompasses the entire game; at no point is the score insistent, and the effects never hit you right between the eyes. This results in an almost surreal atmosphere that you can’t easily forget. At the same time, one could argue that a heavier emphasis on the audio could’ve further increased the effectiveness of that atmosphere. But really, why quibble? The technical elements are well above average.

The start of your adventure isn’t promising. You are a hooded ranger, caught in a snowstorm, who arrives at a remote village. It’s hardly a thriving little town but at least it provides you with much-needed shelter, which the mayor is happy to offer, so long as you agree to a little task. Okay, it’s not a little task; it’s a commitment to save some children who have gone missing. They went out to harvest berries but in such weather conditions, who knows what could’ve happened? So, you set out to conquer a series of randomly created regions in a noble effort to locate those lost children. Speaking with other members of the town will yield more stories and quests.

Taking the time to learn more about certain villagers is beneficial, as your character will often receive bonuses, such as a temporary energy boost. In fact, if you’re diligent about fostering relationships, you can bring about significant changes among the townspeople. Just think, that couple got married ‘cuz of you! Anyway, once you’re done roaming the town, you head out into the forbidding wilderness, which is full of terrible dangers. For those who are old enough, they’ll be reminded of old-school top-down dungeon-crawlers like The Legend of Zelda . The difference here is that your character is definitely not a superhero.

You’ve got a magic staff that lets you lift objects and carry them around, and you can also fuse items to craft new – and hopefully more useful – equipment. There’s a fair amount of trial-and-error because you’re never quite certain how an object will react when combined with a piece of the landscape. Also, it’s important to remember that carrying objects drains your energy meter and you can’t just bring an object anywhere you wish. Some spaces are too tight and other times, you can’t carry everything you want to carry (there’s a limit of four). This means you’ll have to carefully plan out your approach before making any final decisions.