A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn about puzzles while practicing their logic and problem-solving skills in this inventive and challenging puzzle game. Puzzles are never the same twice and rarely have just one solution, meaning kids will need to rely not on memory but instead their understanding of the game's rules and logic. This will give them ways to manipulate and combine the game's objects and creatures to achieve objectives. It can be pretty tough, and losing means restarting the game from scratch, but kids will get better as they learn. Road Not Taken will test some players' patience, but it provides a good mental workout and can be enormously satisfying when success is finally achieved.
The narrative tells the tale of a well-meaning ranger who settles in a village and helps the residents find and happily reunite with their children, some of whom get lost during each year's annual blueberry harvest. Game action promotes puzzle solving rather than violence. Plenty of absurdist humor -- including occasional poop jokes -- comes via text dialogue.
Positive Role Models
The Ranger helps people by rescuing children lost in the wild and sharing his berries, bunnies, rice, and gold with people who need them. He doesn't engage in violence (though he frequently tosses enemies out of his way, sometimes causing them to combine with other objects and turn into something), but instead spends his time solving puzzles and avoiding creatures that can hurt him.
Ease of Play
The interface is simple, with basic controls to move, interact with items, and learn more about specific creatures and objects. But while the puzzles start off pretty easy, they quickly grow in difficulty. Most players' first game will likely end around the third or fourth of 15 levels, forcing them to start all over again. They'll likely make it only one or two levels further with each succeeding attempt. There's no option to make it any easier.
Violence & Scariness
The screen flashes red, and the hero's energy drops whenever he bumps into an enemy, like a ghost or a wolf.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One fellow mentions having a "love child," but that's about as racy as it gets.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Road Not Taken is a challenging downloadable puzzle game in which players need to learn how to best use a vast array of objects and creatures to make their way through a series of randomly generated puzzles. It gets pretty hard pretty fast and could prove frustrating to players who struggle with patience. But there's not really any violence to speak of, and the game's conundrums -- few of which are restricted to one-answer solutions -- promote good lateral thinking. Plus, it dishes out some legitimately funny off-the-wall humor that's sure to delight kids whose tastes run a bit outside the mainstream. Parents will also like the displayed result of solved puzzles -- mothers and lost children reuniting happily in a safe space -- which adds a positive element to gameplay.
Is It Any Good?
Road Not Taken is for a very specific kind of player: Those who enjoy tough puzzles, have a quirky sense of humor, and don't mind restarting a game from scratch every time they fail. If you don't meet this criteria, you'll almost certainly become frustrated within the first few puzzles. But if you do, then this game may prove to be a lot of fun. The interactions between objects are deeply multifaceted and frequently surprising. At their most basic, you might simply have to figure out how to throw a few stones or pines together to open a gate. But as the game progresses, you'll learn how to do things like create honey from beehives (which will help restore the Ranger's health) and make ice from white ghosts (which lets you switch the position of two objects). These discoveries may come as rewards for helping non-player characters or through happy accidents while in the wild. Regardless, they're always useful and frequently satisfying.
An option to lower difficulty -- by, say, raising the amount of energy the Ranger has with each new venture into the forest -- might have resulted in a little less frustration for some players. But there's no denying that Road Not Taken is an innovative and gratifying puzzle adventure game -- and one that's safe and appropriate for anyone old enough to handle its crafty conundrums.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.