A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
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What's it about?
ROAD NOT TAKEN mixes elements of classic adventure games, puzzle games, and crafting to create an unusual and challenging series of ever-changing conundrums. Players control the Ranger, a hooded figure who arrives in a small village that seems to lose many of its children during each year's annual blueberry harvest. He heads out into the forest, a series of wilderness rooms that change each time he visits. In order to unlock new rooms or access blocked sections of his current room, players need to pick up and throw various objects -- including rocks, trees, and small animals -- in accordance with specific rules, one of which is that the Ranger can't change the direction he's facing after picking something up. Compounding matters, the Ranger loses energy the further he carries objects or if he touches an enemy, such as a wolf or a ghost. When he runs out of energy, it's game over and players will restart the whole adventure from scratch.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about comedy. Why do you think different kinds of people laugh at different types of jokes? Do you find Road Not Taken funny? What about its humor appealed -- or didn't appeal -- to you?
Discuss reasons for doing good deeds like the ones in Road Not Taken. This game's hero is rewarded with energy, useful items, and goods for helping others. What other reasons might someone have for trying to help friends or strangers?
- Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: logic, problem solving, solving puzzles
- Price: $14.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Spry Fox LLC
- Release date: August 5, 2014
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy
- ESRB rating: E for No descriptors
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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