Rusty Lake: Roots – 8.5/10
Rusty Lake: Roots is the latest chapter in the Rusty Lake saga, from the creators of the Cube Escape series, in which players uncover secrets from the Vanderboom family tree. It’s a Point-&-Click style Adventure game full of puzzles, obscure references, and macabre plot twists. Released on October 20th, 2016, from the creative minds at Rusty Lake, a developer team based in the Netherlands, Rusty Lake: Roots attempts to building upon its successful predecessor, Rusty Lake Hotel – a title I had the privilege of reviewing earlier in 2016 – but can it deliver enough new content to keep players wanting more?
Family Trees, Secrets, and Conflicts
Rusty Lake: Roots begins with founding father James Vanderboom, and his discovery of a magical seed. After planting it in his garden, players unlock the ability to trace James’ lineage over several generations. It’s a fairly complex, elaborate line of family, and keeping the relatives all straight is challenging at times if you don’t have their pictures in front of you; for the sake of simplicity and the enjoyment of unlocking the branches, I’m not going to go into detail about each member of the Vanderboom family. However, I will mention that each member has unique personality traits, interests, and incredibly quirky experiences – ranging from son Albert’s love of the occult and penchant for creepy masks to granddaughter Rose’s desire to communicate with her deceased ancestors.
The occult themes continue throughout the game, and at times they range from usual to downright unsettling. Rusty Lake: Roots, despite its charming cartoon graphics, is really not a title designed for kids. At one point, players use poppets to control the positions of family members, lighting them on fire and driving needles into their hearts. The journey dark and morbid at times, but it never crossed the line into grotesque or truly unsettling in my opinion. Still, if those themes are disturbing for you, perhaps the lore, family legacy, and puzzles in Rusty Lake: Roots won’t overshadow the troubling plot moments.
Puzzles, Puzzles, Puzzles!
On top of having an intriguing storyline with numerous cross-title references, Rusty Lake: Roots does a phenomenal job of providing a variety of puzzle types – from obscure to simple, color-based, numerical, and so forth. I mentioned in my previous review for Rusty Lake Hotel that the Developers behind these titles do a wonderful job of providing ample puzzles of numerous styles; there’s a little something for everyone, not only in the Rusty Lake series itself but also in the free-to-play Cube Escape series that’s available on their website and Kongregate.
In this new premium release, those fantastic puzzles have been expanded – with over thirty levels, albeit fairly brief ones, Rusty Lake: Roots has a ton going on. It took me over four hours to defeat the initial game, and I haven’t even begun to go back in and unlock the additional features. It definitely lends more replay value to this puzzle-heavy title, which is always a welcome addition – I’d have rated this Adventure game 9/10, except for the minimal replay value after you finish all of the puzzles.
The graphics in Rusty Lake: Roots are fairly simplistic, but they’re polished and sophisticated; despite being cartoons, everything looks very professional and downright appealing. I love that each level has its own theme song and variations and that at least one puzzle contains a musical component. Those types of immersive soundtracks really lend extra depth to an Adventure title.
Quite frankly, Rusty Lake: Roots is one of the best Adventure Point-&-Click titles I’ve played in recent memory. The developers have done a fantastic job of blending a compelling – if occasionally dark and twisted – storyline with challenging, varied puzzles, while still keeping the Point-&-Click style. That variety makes it very interesting to see which puzzles each player prefers; I had an easy time with things that were color-based, but it took me forever to decipher a couple of math-oriented solutions. It’s an extra step that ensures a wide variety of gamers can enjoy the same pool of puzzles, and it’s an attention to detail that I think speaks very highly of the Rusty Lake crew.
I really enjoyed the complexity of the storyline here. Players piece together information – which leaves quite a bit subject to interpretation, of course – because the game never really lays stuff out in a text-based away. We learn that certain family members experience different types of loss, whereas others are drawn to the occult, desperate for power. We learn bits and pieces of information about the poor souls that married into the seemingly doomed Vanderboom family line, though some in-laws, like Samuel’s wife, Ida, handle the ominous vibe around the family rather well.
There’s a Tarot card, star constellations, symbols on scraps of paper, and a whole host of other objects to find and use to get further in the game. For anyone who loves puzzles, Rusty Lake: Roots is a must-have purchase, and the lower price point makes it an even stronger recommendation; alternatively, if you happen to be looking for an Adventure game in the Point-&-Click style, with a macabre storyline and sinister plot, I still would vote this title a worthy addition to your Library. As for me, I absolutely cannot wait to see what the Rusty Lake crew does next!