Road Not Taken requires patience and a careful consideration of every move. A roguelike puzzler with a cool aesthetic, a lack of planning will lead to a quick death. Two failures in a row is game over. Despite the warm presentation, this is brutal.
Spry Fox throws many ideas into the pot, and while some pay off, others fall completely flat. The game’s village hub, for example, allows you to exchange items with inhabitants in return for energy boosters or charms, which affect the difficulty of the puzzles found in the levels proper.
The idea is that exchanging items which the villagers desire will earn greater trust, and therefore better rewards. Sadly, the items the villagers want are clearly signposted, negating the challenge.
The levels themselves vary from interesting to infuriating due to an early, sharp difficulty spike. There's a struggle to balance puzzles and combat, thanks to enemies often feeling like they get in the way of the ability to solve a puzzle, rather than add depth. It’s not long before you can (and will) 'ban' certain enemies and items from appearing in future levels.
The issue with this is that your hooded hero can combine enemies and objects in the environment to form new items, so there’s a risk/reward element to play. Thanks to my stubbornness, I refused to lock anything, and failure quickly followed thanks to hawks, raccoons and bees waiting to zap precious energy.
Failing to rescue more than half the children in two consecutive levels is game over, and you have to start the whole game again unless you’ve created a checkpoint by offering an item to a chalice. This is the only way to save the game, and is a pain in the arse.
Road Not Taken, ironically, feels like it’s stuck between two ideals. It can offer very interesting puzzle mechanics, but gets bogged down by over-complicating matters with enemy types that add frustration. Despite the friendly art style, it’s a daunting challenging which requires a lot of effort to overcome.
Version tested: PS4
6 / 10
- Nice art style.
- Interesting ideas.
- Frustrating save system.
- AI behaviour can feel random at times.