What is it?
you know about Swedish folklore? Not very much, I'd hazard. Most of us
have heard of the Norse mythological pantheon of Thor, Loki, Odin and so
on, but the stranger creatures of folk tales, like the Svartalv
(a dark elf), the Näcken (a water spirit), the Draug (like
a zombie), or the Gruvfru (the wife of a mine). Actually,
players of Skyrim should
recognise the Draug, or Draugr,
as it rendered in that game, as the re-animated undead corpses of Nord
warriors, but that's kind of not the point here.
review is about Oknytt. An original game, using the Wintermute
engine, by Nemoria Entertainment (not to be confused with Nymeria, a
wolf from the Song of Ice and Fire, aka, Game of Thrones).
Everything about Oknytt is dark. The graphics are dark, the story
takes place at night, and only one type of creature in the game is
anything other than black and gray. Mind you, that's the Älvor
(the elves) and they are tiny and bright white instead. I suspect that
if you have any sight problems, Oknytt is going to be hard.
Is there a plot?
opening of the game is in the first person perspective, with you walking
towards a camp fire in a dark forest. A strange voice offers
hospitality, safety and a story by the camp fire and it is this story
that forms the rest of the game.
begins with the emergence of a small creature from under a rock into a
dark night beside a stream. It appears to be the first night in the life
of this odd little, furry thing with a long nose, bright eyes, but no
apparent limbs. The creature is very naïve about the world, but curious
about it too. And so, off we go in search of meaning.
develops through various parts of the forest, over the scope of a single
night. The small creature must find things for other creatures, soothe
hurt feelings, rescue an Älv (elf), and find a pair of wings,
amongst many other tasks.
How do you play?
is a completely mouse-driven, point-n-click adventure game. The opening
screen has the normal functions on it, but also has a Lore Library and a
Tutorial on how to use the game. The Lore Library begins blank, but is
filled in as you encounter creatures (and some objects) in the course of
the game with a description of what those creatures are.
the game, you have the main scene filling the screen, with the small
creature acting as your agent in the world. Hotspots are high-lighted as
you move over them, but you have to explore the scene to find them in
the first place. Most are fairly easy to spot. If you click anywhere on
the scene, the small creature will move there (or thereabouts), and
exits are a single click away too. If you double-click on an exit, you
make a quick exit, without the small creature moving at normal speed
across the scene. For other hotspots, you have to click and hold the
mouse button down because there is a disk of three actions available at
every one. You can have a description read by the narrator, or a comment
from the small creature, or you can try to interact with the hotspot.
Personally, I would have preferred a three-state mouse cursor (for
example, where you right click to change between the three modes), but
the actions disk worked ok.
'normal' features of games are available: one is an objectives list, in
a scroll in the top left corner of the screen, the other is a chest in
the top right corner, which is your inventory. Right clicking on screen
will also pop-up the inventory. When you click to interact with some
objects in the world, they go in your inventory, and at other times,
other characters will give you things, which also go in there. Inventory
objects can be combined to create new ones.
progresses through the woods, lakes and forests of the night in a number
of chapters, linked by pre-rendered cut-scenes that are actually of
lower quality than the in-game graphics. This is unusual in modern
games, but suggests to me that the cut-scenes were rendered at a lower
quality to save download space. The cut-scenes are the nearest thing
this game has to action sequences; as a whole, the game is quite slow
the chapters in Oknytt consists of about half-a-dozen locations,
some just the size of the screen, some that scroll horizontally to
extend further. Puzzles are focused on inventory objects, either just
applying the right one, or combining the right combinations, or
understanding what the creatures of the night need from you, or upon the
most unusual feature of the game: the elemental runes.
creature has access to four elemental runes (that are four buttons
across the bottom of the screen) that trigger events in each location
based upon the four elements: earth, air, water and fire. Sometimes the
resulting animations are very small and hard to spot, or subtly animated
(for example, drips of water, or the gradual brightening and dimming of
the stars in the night sky). Some of the rune effects are critical to
solving a given location: powering a device, or shaking something loose
that is initially hidden, and some appear only to be for amusement. Not
all runes will work in all locations, but most will in most places.
acting in Oknytt is all performed by one person, Brian Hall. Just
like so many story tellers, and yes Oknytt really is a lot more
like traditional story telling than many modern games, he is a master of
many voices. The small creature, the narrative content, and a number of
other creatures have unique vocal characteristics.
little music in Oknytt. There is atmospheric ambient sound
throughout, but not what you would want to play on your stereo after the
creature (he never does gain a true name in the game) may be cute, the
graphical style may be "unique" (I'm sorry, that's the best word I can
use for it), and technically Oknytt is stable and glitch-free,
but in my final analysis the game left me bored. No doubt other people's
opinions will differ. I do actually understand that things are dark at
night (where this game is set), but making a game with graphics with
this degree of low contrast actually becomes an accessibility issue.
What do you need to play it?
Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7
Processor: 2.0 GHz CPU
1 GB RAM
Graphics: Direct X 9.0c compatible video card
Drive: 1 GB HD space
a home-built 64-bit Windows 7
Home Premium (SP1) PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual
with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with
on-mother-board, built-in sound card)