|Developer||Rice Cooker Republic|
|Publisher||Rice Cooker Republic|
|Release Date||May 17, 2017|
Review code provided
Bokida: Heartfelt Reunion is a first-person exploration game set in a stylistically minimalist world ripe for exploration and experimentation. The game tasks you with exploring to find and activate monoliths, which gradually changes the world from its monochromatic beginnings and fills it with colour, the aim being to reunite two planets who were separated a long time ago.
Or you could just mess about, using your abilities to explore around and see what you can find. Bokida is built for both kinds of players – the ones who want to bounce from monolith to monolith and get through the story, and the ones who want to explore at their own pace and take it all in. The story exists, narrated at you in Japanese. It’s fine for keeping you moving forward but it’s most definitely not Bokida’s main attraction.
Bokida’s deceptively massive world is littered with places to go and puzzles to solve. Once you’ve ventured beyond its initial tutorial you’re given the freedom to go wherever you like, letting you explore whatever takes your fancy. Activating monoliths will advance the narrative and bring the otherwise black and white world around you to life. But there are plenty of other places you can go in Bokida.
Huge castles, cathedrals, cave networks and more all exist for you to explore. Finding your way into these places and solving the puzzles within are satisfying enough in their own right, making use of the simple mechanics you’re presented with at the beginning of the game (more on those in a moment). They also serve a practical purpose – unlocking extra abilities that can aid your exploration of this mysterious world.
When you begin Bokida you’re given four main abilities that form the foundation of how you’ll explore this world and solve its puzzles. Build blocks, cut blocks, push blocks and delete blocks. These abilities are based around placing blocks in the environment – the most prominent use for them is to fill in closed doorways, then slicing and pushing them away to reveal the door you’ve just essentially created.
There’s a lot you can actually do with these four mechanics if you experiment with them. By exploring optional locations and solving the puzzles within you’ll also unlock additional abilities, which allow you to do things like slow down time. While the puzzles themselves can get complex the gameplay and mechanics are very simple and easy for anyone to pick up and master.
This is a big playground. Its size will seem quite intimidating at first, especially when you compare it to your walking speed and wonder just how long it’ll take you to reach that tower you’ve spotted in the distance. Bokida gives you the ability to glide and pull yourself towards blocks you place in the distance, essentially allowing you to fly with a thoughtful placement of blocks. Blasting around the map like Superman is incredibly satisfying.
The reason I said the world is “deceptively” massive earlier has to do with Bokida’s most interesting mechanic – looping. The world (and some of the indoor environments you find yourself exploring) are built on a loop. If you fall off a cliff or ledge, or wander too far away from a zone, the game seamlessly loops back on itself. Walk in a straight line from where the game initially drops you off and you’ll end up right back where you started.
It manages to do this without a cut or any kind of a loading screen, which makes this quite fascinating to actually experience. Many times when you’re staring down at an infinite drop you can actually see this loop. Don’t get me wrong, the world is still large, this loop just means that it’s not endless, despite the fact that it may look it. It’s quite a technical achievement as the game runs really well, apart from some issues with screen tearing from time to time.
Some may be put off by the lack of direction in Bokida. It can be frustrating when you’re of a mind to find and activate the monoliths – they can be tough to find and the game gives you zero help in actually finding them. The black orbs that act as the game’s collectables don’t really seem to do anything either, other than give you excuses to reach areas of the world you’d otherwise ignore.
Bokida presents a compelling world to explore that’s wrapped in a peaceful, almost zen atmosphere. You’re never in danger or racing against any sort of threat in Bokida. You’re free to go where you like, see what you want and tackle the world at your own pace and in whatever way you see fit. The fantastically understated soundtrack hums away in the background and gives you a sense of peaceful tranquillity.
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