The Average Gamer

Indie Rock: Road Not Taken

Road Not Taken - Bedroom
You are cold. Everyone in Road Not Taken is cold. You see each of your neighbours at the depth of climate, a single day every year, where the town is turned pallid and the young are caught out in the surrounding forest. They’re too scared to move and nearly frozen stiff. They need a hasted rescue before succumbing to hypothermia, or any number of other threats that may ensure they never return.

This is the only time the town has use for you, suffering through the powder underfoot where few else can, navigating a maze of nonsense puzzles that test your mental resolve along with your physical stamina, draining your ability to go on as you fight against the temperature and hopefully reunite parent with child.

And it’s a Match-Three Puzzle. It’s by the Triple Town people. Match trees or rocks together to open doors to the next room. Match beehives together and get some honey to return your stamina. That’s what you do in it. You match things.

And when it’s not a Match-Three Puzzle it’s sort-of a relationship simulator, where you trade limited resources in exchange for gifts that might help you out or information about what will come from certain combination of items scattered around the forest. You can enhance this part of the game by spending more time attempting to utilise the tools of your environment, but you’re risking your ability to save the children you’re actually in the woods to track down.

Without ever telling you this, Fire is a tremendously important part of navigating the world. You’re able to lift items at will and throw them without encouraging any negative effect. Walking while holding an item drains your life, as does being attacked by beasts (wolves, angered raccoons, bees) or walking into the path of any woodland spirits.

Road Not Taken - Map

If there’s a fire in the room, you’re not fatigued by cold any longer. Suddenly you’re fine to carry items with no downside. The children you’re tasked with finding also react to fire. Placing the two next to each other will warm the child up and they’ll become precocious little scamps that will follow you around freely.

I like this a lot. It practically states that being cold and tired is the natural state for this world and that it’s through action that you become comfortable enough to do what you’ve set out to.

There’s only one way to make a fire in Road Not Taken. You find two sticks and place them next to each other.

There’s only one way to make sticks. You need an axe, and that’s produced by combining three fire-spirits dotted around the map. They’ll form a cutting implement that will shatter anything wooden and turn it into a single stick

Road Not Taken - Map 2

You’ve got to worry about two things in this crafting system. Items are limited, so you need to think about whether you’ll need what you’ve just destroyed in order to open up a door further into the level. You’ll also need to ensure that you don’t match fire spirits and white spirits, who will become an evil spirit that chomps at your lifebar and sends you closer to restarting the entire game over from the first year.

But maybe you actually want to summon an evil spirit, there are reasons for that too, like… actually, look, figure that one out on your own. The entire game is a massive crafting system where you manage your environment more than you manage the items you’re actually trying to match together. If I explain too much about what you can find, I’m wrecking the game. It’s highly recommended by me and is probably the best thing that Spryfox have put out in their short career.