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Rauniot Review

Rauniot Review

The Finnish (at least some of us) have a habit of saying “Suomi mainittu, torille!” whenever the country is mentioned in any fashion in foreign media. Though it’s more of a meme than a serious thought, the line translates loosely to “Finland was mentioned, to the town square!”. If the implication is not clear, we can get very excited when our little land of forests and lakes enters the popular zeitgeist, if only momentarily, which is why I was both elated and surprised by a game set in Finland, developed by a Finn, and complete with a Northern-Finnish voiceover being available for review! So, get your flame-patterned woolly hat, grab a Karhu, and let’s see what this is all about!

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Rauniot, meaning ruins or the ruins in English, is an isometric point-and-click adventure set in an alternate history, where a massive natural disaster hit in 1975. Causing riots, radiation, loss of land to flooding, wars, and all the other lovely things associated with times of strife. The disaster pushed civilisation to its breaking point and over, with the remaining populations being holed up in small groups, surviving off of what little resources they could find. We find ourselves in the probably-worn-out shoes of Aino, an “agent” of sorts for one of the surviving communities — called Community, funnily enough — on a mission to find another lost agent, Toivo, and recover a nuclear-powered locomotive that could be used to make travel easier without using desperately scarce fuel. Our story starts at a seemingly abandoned gas station, where Toivo’s pathmarks and trail end.

In terms of mechanics, Rauniot is a relatively simple and by-the-books point-and-click game: you control Aino by using the mouse, with the left click doing everything from telling Aino to walk (or run on a double-click) there, interact with that, or talk to them. You will be shown the menu interface by clicking the right mouse button, which consists of a map folder, your belt pouches, your bullet count, and your backpack. Each of these options opens up a different menu, with the folder opening up a map of the area and relevant information, the belt pouches opening up your inventory, and the backpack taking you back to the main menu where you can save, load, quit, or access the how-to-play manual. While I did enjoy this system, I will admit it took me a while to get used to it; more often than not, I clicked the backpack icon, thinking it’d be the inventory, only to find myself pondering the main menu. Not a major issue per se, but I feel there could have been a better way.

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I really liked the look of the menu and how it was "integrated" into the world
The puzzle elements themselves are fun and creative, with some even having a few different solutions. I did find myself stuck in a few spots without a clue on how to progress, though thankfully, I bonked my noggin on a wall enough to figure them out. I won’t say they are unfair, but they were a bit obtuse, as you are not given anything in terms of a hint system or even a “highlight the interactables” button. Unlike many of its contemporaries, Rauniot does not feature item combinations and prefers a more straightforward approach to puzzles. You use the items you have as they are, which limits the amount of solutions a single puzzle can have. This is not, in my opinion, a bad thing, as it allows the puzzles themselves to be the main focus instead of going through the usual “rub everything on everything” mambo point-and-click games may require, but it also means the game has a bit less complexity. You may need to pixel-hunt a bit, however, as some important items can be hard to spot. I spent an embarrassingly long time not realising the very first screen had a rope in a corner, for example!

One thing worthy of note to anyone who was left wondering what the bullets were for: there is no combat in this game. While it is possible to use your pistol for its main purpose, the bullets you do have are more of a key to certain puzzles than anything. You have only three with you, so deciding when to use them can be critical, adding a thin layer of strategy to the game. I could blow open this lock, but then I won’t have any spare if one of the locals gets any funny ideas…

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Strong words for someone in bullet distance!

In addition to puzzling, you will also spend a bit of time interacting with the few locals you do meet. These interactions take place in little cutscenes with both characters visible and animated… at least to an extent. Whenever they are talking, the characters will move and emote, but otherwise, they are mostly still and stare like a deer in headlights. Even the movements themselves are a bit puppet-esque, giving each interaction a bit of an uncanny valley effect. I’m unsure if this was intentional, as technically, any individual could be a starving survivor whose lunch just walked up to say hello, but the artistic style did little to settle my growing unease. Each character is fully voiced, though only in Finnish, and has a dialogue tree to run down. More often than not, they will either have some useful information pertaining to your latest conundrum, or they’ll send you off to solve one of theirs. Being of Finnish descent myself, I liked the characters almost by default; they are very creepy, sure, but they all have this undercurrent of chipper humour or sardonic charm that was only accentuated by the lovely accent, which I fear will be lost on anyone not fluent. For the uninitiated, imagine they all spoke with a thick Yorkshire accent. Regardless, I felt they strike a nice balance between pleasant and threatening, which allows you to interact with them but also keeps you on your guard.

The visual design of the game was surprisingly good, with each “scene” of the game paying attention to detail and having a definitive post-apocalyptic tone. Everything is a wreck, old tins and cans litter the floors, and nature has done its best to reclaim what it can. As advertised, the game features a lot of Finnish scenery as well, with dense birch forests, babbling brooks, abandoned train tracks, and a big ol’ lake. Aino’s design is particularly interesting, with her striking facial tattoo making it look like her jaw is visible, though regretfully, the characters do fall a little flat in terms of voice acting. While never bad, a lot of the discussions were a bit flat and emotionless, which may have been an intentional decision. The end of the world has robbed the survivors of any emotion and desensitised them to the horrors of the world, maybe? In any case, the slightly wooden performance does rob some scenes of the proper impact they could have had.

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Now, reading this far, you may have the impression that this is a very serious and grim tale of post-apocalyptic survival, but this was surprisingly not the case. Though the characters are indeed grim and almost emotionless, they do always have this… dark humour to them and the scenes shown. I enjoyed this combination, as Aino’s witty comments or sardonic reactions helped ease the tension a bit from time to time. However, I did feel Rauniot struggled to find a good balance on this, as the tone did a few sudden lurches here and there. In one scene, we see a character’s leg being sawn off, whereas a few moments later, a character is high on drugs, making a silly face. Honestly, this is mostly the kind of humour I would expect of my country, but the sudden shifts were a bit much.

To summarise, I enjoyed Rauniot, though I may be a bit biased. Playing a game speaking your mother tongue and set nearby will always be more impactful to a local than someone who has no idea what's going on, after all! However, I do think the game had some fun ideas and a retro charm to it that shouldn’t be dismissed, especially since this is the debut title of a very small indie developer. Clocking in at about five hours, Rauniot is not that long and can be played through in a session or two, so if you’re at all curious about what life in the land of a thousand lakes could be like, why not give it a go? You’ll learn a few Finnish cuss words, if nothing else. Note, if you ARE Finnish, add a big +1 to the score at least, trust me.

6.50/10 6½

Rauniot (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

Rauniot is a short but tense puzzle adventure with a great mix of charm and unease. While the language barrier may affect your experience, the short length and interesting puzzles are worth having a look at. Doubly so if you speak the language. TORILLE!

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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