With Tearaway and now this game, it seems game developers are having fun with paper again. While Tearaway was torn sheets of paper, Secrets of Rætikon deals more with folded paper, at least in the look of things, but on top of that look they’ve managed to develop a really fun and interesting side-scrolling open world action title. Secrets of Rætikon combines platforming and puzzle elements with some neat action game bits into an experience that’s definitely unique and certainly fresh, but also doesn’t feel completely alien to a new player either. Secrets of Rætikon is open, welcome and inviting, and is amazingly fun to play.
While I do want to talk about the gameplay, I do have to start with the art, which is amazing to look at, especially in motion. I wasn’t quite sure about it when I first saw it on Steam, but it won me over. It’s got a great aesthetic to it and I really like the folded look to everything. It took a bit to grow on me, but really, after that first dive your bird takes into the game world, it starts to get enchanting very quickly. They make good use of the triangles you naturally make when folding paper for various reasons and their use of color, which has been getting better in some games by going away from that grey and brown everything had to look like, is fantastic.
Another thing I’d like to mention is that, from the Alpha onwards, the developers are also supplying editing tools. You can go in and edit the levels and create new ones all you want with the tools they have, and they’re going to keep updating them as long as they’re working on the game. So you can not only make your own levels to run through, but at the same time, you get a bit of the behind the scenes on how they’re putting it all together, which is interesting. Most companies won’t give you an editor until they’re completely done with the game and it’s shipped, so that being there from the start blew my mind a little bit. Now, the editor is a bit strange, and I did have trouble getting out of it when I went in to play around accidentally, but killing the game and restarting it seems to have solved that issue.
The game starts off with you playing a bird with a few different options available to it as it flies around the different areas. You can pick up different objects and either carry or drop them, tear up saplings from the ground increases your health, pick up other animals and carry them short distances to put them where you want them, pull boulders to roll down on enemy animals or open up new passages, and so on. This is all very puzzle and platforming related stuff. A lot of what you’re doing reminds me of the swimming levels in pretty much any platforming title out there, except you’re flying around for most of the levels instead.
As far as borrowing from platforming, the game itself is 2D, but far from flat in appearance. There are air traps that you will struggle against and have to get around that can force you into rocks or way off from where you want to go, rogue animals that are against you and can and will attack, and of course the terrain itself, with bushes and trees that’ll slow your progress and prickly brush that will sap your health. One of the interesting things they have going is that you can lure or use the other animals against each other. Drag an enemy back to another enemy and the two will go after each other instead of you, or bring the aggressor after one that won’t attack you but isn’t necessarily friendly and you’ve avoided getting trounced.
While we’re not given much insight as to why, your bird is out to collect pieces of an ancient machine to build it up and get you to the last part of the game, which isn’t actually in yet. This is an alpha after all, but a fairly complete one at that. You’ll find pieces of the machine in different areas and have to find parts to get at the other parts you need to get the bigger machine, a machine that sort of acts like the hub of everything else, up and running again.
Controlling Secrets of Rætikon is a breeze with a controller, and while they have options for the keyboard and mouse, both the game and I recommend the 360 controller, or your console controller of choice, for this. This plays a lot like a platformer or console action title if you want to go that route, and it feels more natural playing this with a controller in your hands than the traditional PC interface. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see this game develop, and it should be even more fun to play with all the rest of the game attached to it later.