A relaxing jaunt through a mysterious heavenly plane of existence
Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion is a dream-like adventure game featuring puzzle elements that allow you to explore a strange, minimalist world with the goal of reuniting two stars that were separated long ago. Players will take control of the Messenger as they explore the beautiful open-ended puzzles attempting to make sense of this vast, mysterious landscape. The first game coming from Rice Cooker Republic, a French indie game studio, Bokida combines a strikingly artistic style with soothing music to create an open space where you can explore your own creativity.
There’s something inherently alien about Bokida’s game-world in a strange and unusual way. It certainly draws on Eastern culture, such so that it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to suggest that the plane you explore in Bokida is somewhat analogous to Swarga Loka, meaning Good Kingdom, the general name for Heaven in Hinduism. It has this abstract sense of otherworldliness, which is only amplified by the players god-like abilities to manipulate the environment. As you explore this heavenly paradise more you’ll find philosophical quotes, which only supports this idea further and suggests you’re in a contemplative dimension of higher thought.
The narrative in Bokida seems only to serve as a framework to the existence of the game-world itself. The story revolves around two star-crossed lovers, literally, as the parties in question happen to be celestial bodies, who seek to rekindle their love. As the Messenger, you are instructed to bring about the reunion of these two stars by activating obelisks scattered throughout the surroundings. Introduced through an opening cutscene it appears the story only serves as a narrative backdrop here, as it isn’t particularly fleshed out. This lack of narrative structure leaves the player with a lack of meaning at times, as it isn’t always clear what actions you need to take to move the story forward.
Bokida’s main focus is really its open world and unbridled sense of adventure. After the initial tutorial, which serves as a brief introduction to the basic mechanics, Bokida opens up a complete landscape for the player to explore at their will. The player is presented with four key abilities that will shape their experience throughout the world. The first ability is Build and undoubtedly the most important one. It is a relatively simple mechanic that allows you to build blocks within the symmetrical environment upon certain surfaces. These blocks can then be stacked to create ladders and paths, thus aiding you in traversing Bokida’s mysterious environment. The next three abilities allow the player to interact with the blocks they create in different and experimental ways starting with Cut. Cut grants you the ability to slice the blocks you have created at any angle you choose, casting off the smallest half as waste debris. This ability, similarly to the other three, can be projected over a long distance and charged to produce a larger cut. Push allows you to knock the debris that lies around cubes that have been sliced propelling it through the air, usually in an effort to create holes through walls of blocks. Finally, Clean erases all blocks and debris you have created in its area of effect, magically granting you the capacity to start over anew. Throughout their journey the player will utilise these abilities to create, cut and sculpt structures, all in real time with simulated physics. Although these transformative abilities form the heart of the game, it is Bokida’s creative freedom that really wins out over its relatively simple puzzles.
The puzzles in Bokida may only offer a small amount of challenge, but they are eloquently creative in their design. The world is interspersed with doors you can create out of blocks, these doors then act as portals to another section of the world. These dimensional doorways serve as the gateway to the majority of Bokida’s puzzles and usually require you to activate an obelisk in order to progress. The player is presented with a unique mix of conundrums, such as directional beam-style puzzles that require you to cut blocks to redirect light in a bid lineup the right combination. There are also creative endeavours, such as situations that require you to prune trees with your Cut ability in an effort to get them to grow back in a certain fashion. Later on, you gain the ability to levitate and shatter the debris you create, as well as slow down time, offering players a little more cosmetic versatility in regards to exploring the game’s puzzles. It must be reiterated here again though that the puzzles, so much as the story, serve only as a backdrop to the artistic splendour of Bokida’s game-world. This creative sandbox is evidently the game’s greatest feature.
One place Bokida really shines is in its artistic design. It adopts a monochromatic, minimalist graphical style often reminiscent of the digital futurism found in games such as Battlezone on the Atari and the movie Tron. Analogies could also be drawn between the clean representation of wireframe and line-art styles and Bokida’s outlined or traced environment. Add to this the satisfying symmetry and particle effects Bokida’s game-world exhibits and you get a surreal, almost religious experience, which when combined with its intuitive physics engine creates a fascinating creative playground for you to experiment with.
Musically, Bokida is quite understated, opting for a relaxing, lo-fi soundtrack to accompany you on your quest. The musical tone further expands the idea that Bokida’s game world is a digital representation of what Eastern religions would consider Heaven. Much like all the other constituent parts of the game the music is reflective and thought-provoking. It mixes ambient, and instrumental tones to create calming melodies that add texture to the game-world without becoming its central focus.
Overall Bokida is a beautiful artistic representation of what video games are capable of. Its open world is certainly something to be marvelled at, but it does have its weaknesses. The lack of any type of reset button can be disheartening at times, as you fall off huge cliffs only to be left with the painstaking task of slowly scaling your way back up. The game also exhibits a frustrating lack of direction at times, with you often left circling through the same areas in a bid to understand what you have to do next. Now, granted an objective marker may well have spoiled the experience Bokida seeks to portray, but the addition of a map would have been simple to implement and could have easily helped players find their bearings. Although these minor faults affect Bokida’s overall experience the wonder of this artistic endeavour remains unspoilt. At its heart, Bokida offers players a unique open-world which is ripe for creative freedom and expression, which is undoubtedly its defining quality. To put it simply, if you’re looking for a relaxing adventure game with minimally challenging puzzles and a uniquely aesthetic art-style then you surely won’t be disappointed.
*Transparency: The opinions in this review were formed on the basis of a review copy played on PC.