Road Not Taken Game Poster Image

Road Not Taken

Inventive and challenging puzzler has quirky humor.

What parents need to know

Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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. 


The screen flashes red, and the hero's energy drops whenever he bumps into an enemy, like a ghost or a wolf. 


One fellow mentions having a "love child," but that's about as racy as it gets.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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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.

Kids say

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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.

Families can talk 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? 

Game details

Platforms:Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows
Skills:Thinking & Reasoning: logic, problem solving, solving puzzles
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Available online
Developer:Spry Fox LLC
Release date:August 5, 2014
Topics:Magic and fantasy
ESRB rating:E for No descriptors

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Adult Written bycarlcart August 20, 2014

Great Puzzle Solving With Some Darker Themes

Overall this game really is a good mix of humor and crafty puzzle solving, and though it can be frustrating, it can be very rewarding to learn the crafting combinations to solve the harder puzzles. But as you play through several campaigns you start to realize that there is something darker going on in the little town your ranger is helping. The berries that the lost children were collecting are supposedly able to extend the lives of those who eat them, and it seems that only children can gather them. The town mayor reminds you every play through that you don't need to save all the children each year. Seem a little ominous? The truth that the game is hinting at is made clear if you encounter the witch Baba Yaga in the woods. Her entry in the book of secrets reveals that the berries are able to keep people young because they contain the souls of lost children. This is a pretty dark plot point. While it is not immediately obvious what the true nature of the berries is (and it's clear that the reviewer of this game didn't play far enough to discover this,) it would certainly be something to keep in mind before allowing a younger child to play through this game.