Flying always looks so lovely and effortless. If you asked a bird they’d probably paint a different story, once you evolved their brains to the point where articulating the concept of “effort” was a possibility, but for the sake of every game, book, dream, or fantasy ever, let’s pretend it’s as easy as it looks. Once in the air you can swoop, dive, and loop to your heart’s content, free from the relentless restrictions of gravity. It also makes it easier to collect the pieces required to activate an ancient machine and free the creatures trapped inside, so that’s useful too.
Secrets of Rætikon is a 2D side-scrolling flying adventure game that you can’t call a platformer simply because you never actually land on a platform. It’s got an Indiegogo campaign, complete with full alpha access once your payment clears, and our hands-on time with the current version showed a very pretty game with a fantastic visual style and gameplay that owes a lot to the original Ecco the Dolphin.
In Rætikon you’re a bird flying around a 2D world where, as in Broken Rules’s previous game Chasing Aurora, almost everything is made of triangles. Trees, animals, rocks, and ancient structures are rendered in a vivid angular style that almost pops off the screen, complete with a triangular sun casting its triangular rays over the world. After a brief tutorial lets you know how to soar normally, flap your wings for a bit of extra speed, grab things with your claws, and perform a fast dive, it’s off to explore. And wouldn’t you know it, the first thing you find is a giant machine holding animals captive in a series of cages. The cages can be unlocked by carrying keys back from the machines that hold them, and the keys are earned by finding triangle chips throughout the world. So it’s off to explore the levels to see what you can discover.
The primary mechanics for exploration are flight (of course) and grab. You can grab almost everything you see, from rocks and trees to other animals, and some of them grab back. The crow is merely a pain in the ass, seeing as he’ll grab you and throw you at thorns, but the hawk is out for blood. Evasion is nice but there’s a good amount of backtracking as you carry the keys around, so you’ll need to fight back by uprooting a plant with a thorny cluster on one end and using it as a flail. You can also grab rock piles to clear a path, uproot suspicious plants to crack open walls, and carry parts of statues around for reassembly. The current demo is limited to a few linked areas, but there are plenty of paths and areas to explore in each and no shortage of ways to experiment with the mechanics.
Even in its early state Secrets of Rætikon plays well and looks amazing. The bird flies around with ease, soaring through the levels at a comfortable pace and pouring on the speed when necessary, equally at ease near the top of the sky, deep in a tunnel, or moving slowly and carefully through a tangle of thorns. The basic mechanics are simple, very pick-up-and-play, but have the potential for plenty of interaction with the environments even beyond what’s on display so far. There’s even runic text to decipher, giving details on the history of the world once you figure out how to read it. Secrets of Rætikon is off to an excellent start, and the alpha’s updates are adding features and knocking out bugs at a decent pace. There’s a lot to like about Raetikon, so head over to it’s Indiegogo page and see if it’s worth your donation.