Indie Game of the Week 141: Oknytt

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It's an even-numbered week, and so the mighty pendulum of IGotW has swung back towards adventures and away from platformers: the only two types of game I play. Oknytt is a classic point-and-click adventure game with a darker, nocturnal look that belies the wholesome (if still a bit scary) fairytale story at its core. At six years old, Oknytt's one of the older games on my shortlist, but it's one I've been looking to cover for a while because it invokes off two of my frequent discussion topics: Folkloristic games and Indie adventure games that benefit from the law of conservation of energy.

The former we've visited a few times before here, but in short refers to games developed in less commonly represented countries across the globe where they've chosen to leverage their local folklore and culture as a means to either set their game apart from the crowd or engender greater understanding and appreciation of that culture on an international scale (or both). With Oknytt, we're deep in the woods of Swedish/Scandinavian folklore, its titular mythological creature also being the game's protagonist. NPCs are invariably types of Swedish spirit or monster, and hitting the game's version of the "examine" button will give you a textbook rundown of the spirit in question. This lore context is often conducive towards understanding the motivations and disposition of these creatures too, allowing the player to figure out what it is they need or how they might be outwitted. As with The Mooseman, another adventure game from a nearby part of the world that also takes place over a single night, local mythology and traditional adventure game puzzles are merged together in some meaningful and clever ways.

A major mechanic is invoking the four elements (those tabs at the bottom), each of which might provide anything from an inconsequential visual effect to progress towards completing the chapter. This room makes special use of them, however, with ideographs that represent two elements at once (e.g. rain = water + air) that you have to activate in the right order.
A major mechanic is invoking the four elements (those tabs at the bottom), each of which might provide anything from an inconsequential visual effect to progress towards completing the chapter. This room makes special use of them, however, with ideographs that represent two elements at once (e.g. rain = water + air) that you have to activate in the right order.

The latter topic, the "adventure game law of conservation of energy," refers to how adventure games built on a smaller scale also benefit from same because the developers neither feel the need nor can afford to their worlds with pointless filler screens full of immaterial stuff to look at. There's also a relative dearth of hotspots to peruse, minimizing the amount of time you'll spent stuck on a particular puzzle. Oknytt is broken up into five chapters, each of which is set in a new location usually no larger than six or seven screens total. I've always preferred this compartmentalizing approach for how little I need to worry about lugging around an entire dumpster's worth of trash I'm not entirely sure I'll still need after one use, or will ever need. In Oknytt, any inventory item that has served its purpose immediately vanishes, and . The one thing the game is missing is the ever-welcome "highlight all hotspots" button, which given the game setting's constant low-light environments might've been helpful pointing out a few of the more subtle items in the vicinity. The few times I was stuck, though, it's because I didn't acknowledge some object in the foreground, so that's largely on me. (I didn't expect to find a large, useful object hidden underneath a barely visible straw bed at the bottom of the screen, oddly enough.) Oknytt also has a few of those Layton-style mechanic puzzles, where you're pressing buttons in order or sliding something around to match up symbols, but it uses these sparingly and none of them are all that difficult. Could be I'm just saying that because I've played way too many of those darned hidden object puzzle adventure games though.

Check out these little rock gnomes!
Check out these little rock gnomes!

On the whole, Oknytt is a cute little adventure game that taught me all about vættir, näcken, and gårdstomte as well as being a pleasant way to pass a few hours solving puzzles and pixel-hunting throughout its briskly-paced runtime. It's a slight game with a slight price to match, and barring a few translation uh-ohs and typos in the voiceover script and subtitles there are no harsh words I have to say about it. If you find it in the "dollar or less" range when the next Steam sale hits, consider checking it out. Germane to the message of the game, small treasures like these - as insignificant as they may initially seem - can offer great value after all.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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