Bokida: Heartfelt Reunion
Developer Rice Cooker Republic
How many crevices have I found myself stuck inside of, while exploring the amazing world of Bokida: Heartfelt Reunion? A great many. In case I’ve previously failed to mention, I have the bad habit of pointing myself in a direction and then walking in it, in open world games. I should write a book on the many ends of worlds I have seen. Often, I’m left frustrated because it’s then so easy to lose the critical path, like in Skyrim. Fus Ro Dah? I saw a lot of snow. In Bokida’s case, the breathtaking level design enchanted me for hours, progression aside.
As a kind of Journey-meets-Minecraft experience, the player mars a perfect landscape with custom blue or green staircases, and blocks to pull against, for speeding up travel or flying. At one point, I noticed a collectible dot perched on a rocky spire, from game-miles away, and had to create magnificent, ugly scaffolding to reach the top. Then I found a gorgeous, ancient castle to scale that was many times the height again. I have now climbed many things, collected sad increments of story and gazed down at incredible, alien landscapes.
I eventually gave up playing, although I was vaguely close to the end, because I completely forgot what I was supposed to be doing, as is my wont. This is not to say I didn’t solve many enjoyable puzzles on my wayward journey, however. Generally at monolith-like structures, you will build, cut, push and clean, having to discern the structure of the puzzle, and your goal, through experimentation. Some are difficult. When they’re solved, the plot progresses and you’re even sometimes treated to new places to explore. (Like I needed more places.)
Smaller sections of story are delivered when you find symbols on stones. It’s often minimalist philosophy, like, “Have little and gain. Have much and be confused,” which probably wasn’t referring to the massive level I got lost in, but I had a laugh at that point anyway. I understood the narrative, if not all of what was implied, because aspects feel deliberately private. You are treated to information about local temples, festivals and traditions, but the most pivotal storytelling is evolving and environmental, as you’ll learn through exploration.
Over the course of the game, you’ll glide, swim and float, and movement just feels really nice. I found myself, uncharacteristically, wishing this were a VR title, except that the moments of sudden acceleration would be vomit-inducing. At one point I found myself falling infinitely through the most beautiful village, built into floating rocks, reluctant to try to break my fall. As the game progresses, there are some unusual moments for gravity, which are particularly great when combined with Escher-style structures.
I’d recommend Bokida: Heartfelt Reunion to level designers, and people who promise to play it properly, unlike me. Interestingly, I found a Let’s Play showing a YouTuber getting horribly lost at exactly the same location that I started walking in a straight line. He described the experience as having, “an overwhelming amount of freedom.” I spoiled the ending for myself, but I wish I’d stopped wandering and finished it. In such a detailed puzzle-exploration game, it’s easy to eschew the puzzles, but progression is, ultimately, better.