Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion by developer Rice Cooker Republic is artistically unique, functioning as a piece of art before being a game. It is a spectacular puzzle game that asks you to build, cut, and destroy blocks in order to unlock the environment around you. Its visuals are simultaneously ascetic and haunting, leaving you with the feeling of a strangely beautiful world left unfinished by its creator. It is, in short, visually spectacular. However, aesthetics does not make a game inherently good as a game. And, Bokida – Heartfelt Reunion sometimes falls foul of that.
It seems strange to review this game on the criteria of a puzzle game like Portal or Pneuma (of which Portal is far superior in my opinion) because it doesn’t really function as one. It is not gripping. There is no story that keeps you hooked. There is no boss. No enemy. No stakes. There is little to define this ‘game’ as such beyond the fact that it is interactive. Rather, I would argue that it is a cathartic artistic indulgence designed to keep you interested for short periods of time, rather than hours on end. It’s something you play to clear your mind, to find yourself in a world filled with unknown purpose, yet seemingly limited possibility (not that it does, but you get that sense). I sincerely think that this is a piece of art rather than a video game. So, this review will be strange. Because I will have to analyze Bokida on criteria that I do not think it even apply. I recommend you buy this game. Not because it is fun but because it is unique, and jaw dropping, and an attempt at something new that rarely seems to cross my path these days.
The main mechanics of the game involve four options: Build, Cut, Push, and Clear. Using these four functions you fix holes, prune trees, build bridges or ladders, all to move on to the next chapter. This leads you to a series of bizarre monochromatic changes, with dust swirling around you as you glide from place to place. You cut blocks on angles to chain stones with beams, opening more and more sections. And then there are tress and color, and time bending, and the world changes and yet retains its beauty. The movement mechanics are very satisfying, floating from place to place, and chaining blocks to build up speed. Its smooth and simple.
The major gripe I have with this game is that there is nothing that is gripping. No story to keep you glued to the screen, no puzzles that are playful like Portal. Rather, it just seems like a disjointed series landscapes. Nothing compelling you to come back. There are vague epithets on rocks, some of which are profound, some of which are frustrating, and very few of them help you discern any semblance of a plot.
One thing I think that this game does well is how puzzles function. They can be frustrating. To the point that sometimes you have to put the game down. But figuring out how to do them is cathartic, providing a release and satisfaction at you own brain, and laughing at how frustrated you were just seconds before. It is a game that rewards you for thinking differently, rather than the linear thinking of AAA titles.
I do not think that Bokida ought to be assessed like a normal game. And doing so makes it look awful. But it is not a normal game, and not a normal experience. It is unique. It is worth playing for the catharsis, for the aesthetics, and for something new and different. However, it cannot be stated enough that if you expect a ‘game’ when you buy this, you will be surprised. Because it is not one. It is a piece of interactive art. As a game, I rate this 6/10. But like I said, that’s unfair.