by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Sucker For Art
At this point, “art-house” indie games have become just as much of a cliche as their cinematic brethren, dripping with pseudo-intellectualism, minimalist graphics, and void of much real direction or gameplay- all in the name of, justified or not, a deeper, more mature experience. I happened to be a sucker for these games, but there’s no doubt that the repetitiveness in design and tone might be starting to overstay it’s welcome a bit. Bokida: Heartfelt Reunion does check a staggering number of these boxes, however, it’s puzzles are entertaining enough, and it’s environment enticing enough, that the journey seems justified, and my time felt respected.
Though it’s more just a backdrop for this incredibly relaxing experience, Bokida is a love story at heart. Romeo and Juliet may be literature’s most famous star-crossed lovers, but Bokida takes the phrase to a much more literal level, entrusting the player to reunite two planets in love. It’s definitely a strange premise, but it’s one that melds with the game’s ethereal aesthetic and abstract puzzles.
To Unite Worlds
Like a midnight walk down an empty beach, Bokida throws you into a calm, sprawling, peaceful landscape and lets you decide what you want to do. Your objective, in the simplest of terms, is to wander around, find monoliths, and solve puzzles to activate them and bring the celestial lovers that much closer together. Want to run around and activate the monoliths as fast as possible? Knock yourself out. Want to goof around and just explore the landscape? You’re in luck, because there are almost 70 collectible orbs hidden around to hunt.
Your tools for interacting with the world, both to navigate and solve puzzles, are limited to a build, cut, push, and clean tool, as well as a few utilities to speed up land traversal and brick management. The four tools seems simple in design, but as you get the hang of their workings, your role as sculptor becomes clear. Blue boxes can be placed like LEGO bricks, but the cut tool can slice segments off of them at any angle, letting you carve out just about any shapes you might need. It’s a satisfying system that, best of all, lets you get a little creative with some of the monolith solutions. None of the puzzles themselves are terribly difficult, but they are satisfyingly creative and held my attention well.
While the puzzles are good, this is a game that lives and dies with it’s atmosphere, and, fortunately, this is an area where the game shines. The simplistic, bleached-white visuals and the swelling, soothing flow of the dreamy electronic background melodies give Bokida a very relaxed, zen-like feel. Bokida is a dream, the kind in which every moment dances on the crumbling edges of reason, beckoning you to give in and fall into the depths of its unreality. With some mind-bending areas that seem straight from Inception or Dr. Strange it’s easy to get carried away climbing a mountain or exploring a building and forget you even have puzzles to look for, something I spent quite a bit of time doing. The raw scale of the environment can also be jaw dropping, with an impressive draw distance that lets you marvel at the size or and distance between landmarks. Finding a massive, detailed underground building only visible from the surface by a small lattice gate was a personal standout, and instills a childlike sense of discovery and adventure that never really went away.
My only real complaint about Bokida is that sometimes this scale can get in the way of when I do just want to solve some of the puzzles. Being an open world game I’m sure it’s intentional, but, as far as I ever noticed, there aren’t any indicators that point in the direction of the remaining monoliths. This means that even with leaving “breadcrumbs” with your constructs, it can be a bit difficult to know where to go. Given that it can take a little time to get from one area to the next, there were a few times in which I was frustrated and a bit confused about what to do.
Like far-East philosophical quotes spread around the environment promote, Boikido: Heartfelt Reunion is a game about relaxation and going with the flow. Anyone looking for a directed, structured experience isn’t going to find what they’re looking for here, but those with some time to unwind here are there will be pleasantly surprised with a well-designed game that runs well and sets out what it accomplishes to do.
Relaxing atmosphere, unique environmental interaction tools, and satisfying puzzles
Finding puzzles can be a headache, players looking for focus or tangible substance will be disappointed