Time flows like a river. Two bodies stand on opposite banks, looking at each other and longing. Once together, they are now held apart by uncontrollable forces. Unable to bear it any longer, one body sends the other a messenger. The pair will be together again. Even if it destroys all that exists.
Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion is a first person puzzle game. Set on a mysterious white desolate world, the player takes on the role of the Messenger. Granted power by a mysterious benefactor, the player is tasked with activating a series of obelisks. To do this the Messenger has been given the ability to create and manipulate blocks in a number of ways.
Each obelisk has a particular puzzle which needs solving in order to activate it. There are also a number of shrines dotted about, which take the player to reality-bending dimensions and allows them to gain new abilities. As if that wasn’t enough, over 60 memory orbs are scattered around the world, as well as a number of stone signs which contain scripture extracts from the Way.
All this is contained in a reasonably large map, which the player is free to traverse as they see fit. Luckily the Messenger is quite manoeuvrable, able to jump many times their height, glide great distances, and fall from any elevation without being hurt. This is helpful, as the world is full of towering abandoned buildings and gigantic natural structures which hide many secrets.
Everything about Bokida is in service of its minimalist, zen-like mindset. The developers seem to not be trying to tell a particular story, instead prompting the player to interpret the game and create their own narrative within it. And while the Words of the Way, as well as the environmental changes each obelisk causes, indicate some definite history the overall context is left up to the player’s discretion.
It is an old story telling device, one which many games have attempted to use in some form with questionable results. However, the way Bokida marries this narrative device with a considered visual and game play treatment makes it feel that much more complete. At the very core of it, Bokida is a great example of the old saying “show, don’t tell.”
The puzzles form an interesting link between the nature of the world, and providing the player with a series of challenges to overcome. Because of the free form nature of the game, every puzzle can be solved with the players starting powers. This has necessitated that each puzzle is a mixture of logic and spatial awareness problems.
All the puzzles are fairly easy to solve the first time. Even if the player gets stuck, they can go away and solve other problems and try again later. This usually gives the player a chance to reflect on the problem they are stuck on, and possibly pick up some hints on how to solve it from other puzzle solutions.
While Bokida has a focus on problem solving, the real joy of the game is in moving about the world. The controls are simple and intuitive, with each action gradually introduced to the player in an organic way. Once released to move about the world the controls are responsive and fluid, making getting from place to place a quick and enjoyable experience.
Because of the abstract nature of Bokida, it is hard to fault the game play experience. However, problems can be found in some of the background execution of the systems. There is no manual save function, only an auto save one. This works fine most of the time, though it is hard to discern exactly where or when a game is saved. As far as I can tell, there is no indication given as to when the game is saving. A number of times I exited the game, only to find myself at an earlier point when I came back. Most annoying, especially when you lose a chunk of play time.
Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion is a fascinating game which pushes the boundaries of what players can expect from a first person puzzle title. It has an interesting story that is open to interpretation, backed up by solid controls, but the extremely abstract nature of the experience means that a lot of players are probably going to quickly lose interest. However, for those players who are interested in thinking deeper about things Bokida is doubtlessly going to provide an engaging venue for existential musings.
Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion was developed and published by Rice Cooker Republic, and is available right now of Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 10 hours