Monday 8 July 2024

Rauniot Review (Steam)

Review by Thomas G.J. Sharpe

Finnish point n’ click Rauniot had me boycott it for so long, and so early that I wanted to uninstall it. I’m glad I didn’t, because once this throwback gets into its stride, there is something wholly compelling and unusual about it.

At once familiar and a bit off, this is a mutated bit of nostalgia. The game world reflected in it’s feel. There is some fun diegesis with menus and GUI that remind me of other effective retro-futurism-immersion like Alien: Isolation. For some mad reason, the next one that came up for me was Crusader: No Remorse (it is far prettier, no shade intended). Something about the perspective and the mid-late 90’s graphical smoothness. Rauniot hits notes of shareware slideshows on PC Gamer demo discs graphically, yet it’s whispered, violent world is more akin to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or Disco Elysium. It is, however, no way near as garrulous as those two titles.

The pitch is you play as Aino searching for a companion on horseback. The world is a stalled 1970’s after an apocalyptic event. Some decent indicators that everything has gone to Hull in a handcart is the proliferation of dog food, the bleak and oppressive lack of trust, and a haunted, reverberant world. The protagonist is barely audible and spins an atmosphere more dissociative as Finnish is not a language my ears are lucky to hear very often. Whispering asides that brood and menace are the soup of the day.

The litmus test of any point n’ clicker is the puzzles. Immediately I feel into a trap of having to pixel hunt. An almost first encountered item eluded me for far too long, which gives our first pause; there are mild outline hints on rollover for items, but do not expected things to be pointed out with neon signs. Take this how thy wilt, I suppose. I personally would like items to be in places where I can guess where they may be through inference, not through clutter. Other puzzles are marred by gating each other but with little nudging. Again, we could enter the puzzle vs intelligence vs brootal-git-gud thing, and I wish to be above the left-right paradigm, don’t we all.

Where Rauniot shines is an uncompromising story of human interaction. The characters you meet as Aino, and her herself, are on the very edge, the absolute limit of their trust in anything. This is a love letter to staring over an interpersonal cliff and wondering if the thrill of descent is worth leaving others.

This world is packed to the grimy rafters with detail, and uncanny locations, that really sing this nearly old game vibe. The minor hiccups in puzzle design throughout, I can personally overlook due to the caustic writing, unnerving performances, and this thoroughly effective evocation of a bit of a lost point n’ click style. It should be noted there are modern quality of life touches, such as quick move and a sort of back-pack-y menu thing.

For those with a penchant for sadness, whispering, dog food and being worried about neighbours. A little mucky gem.

Overall 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment