Triangular sun floats above the straight geometrical line of the horizon. You can “jump” above it, but the gravity will pull you back shortly. A vulture floating in an airflow carries its prey. Somewhere below spruces swing in the wind, bobcats hunt the jays, mysterious altars await their time, giant foxes sleep in their lair, and cryptic runestones emit blue light. And everything is made out of triangles. Previous game of Broken Rules studio celebrated torn paper aesthetic; Secrets of Rætikon echoes it trying hard to look like an origami composition.
This is Ecco the Dolphin which has been drained, but preserved the iconic arc jump when you try to go up above the skyline. As a bird which literally felt from the sky will have to find a way yourself through the mountains, lakes and underground temples. A short tutorial will familiarize you with basics of controls and key items — yellow glowing shards. Flapping the wings and finding beneficial airflows is a pure joy. An ability to clutch anything is a surprisingly powerful way to interact with the world. You can pick up a stone or a running rabbit with the same ease (if you’re agile enough to catch it). A torn out sprout will regenerate your health, a rock falling from above will crush anything it falls on. If you’re observant enough you’ll find more complex interactions on your way. Bringing an egg laying on the ground back to the nest will make it hatch, and the nestling will throw about blue spheres. What do you need them for? Oh, that’s another small secret which are numerous in the game. Hidden passages, runic writings, ciphers and keys — the world is compact but bursting with content.
No help will come from anywhere, nothing to rely on besides yourself, your memory and attention to detail. The majority of obstacles only seem hard. Take a pause, wait and observe and a solution will come. Lure a lynx to the moose which has a key item stuck in his horns, pick up a stone to dive deeper on the pond — right actions are logical and evident, like the game world itself. Below the surface though there is another layer, not physical, but mythological in nature.
The tales or rets, an ancient tribe inhabited Alps long time ago isn’t exactly a key to what’s happening on the screen. It’s an optional vignette, a reward for the patient player. You can finish the game paying no attention to the messages on the runestones, and then the giant foxes will remain just an exercise in design. The statues that you’ll assemble from the broken pieces will stay nothing but a method to open a new path. But aren’t you curious about what they actually mean?
Secrets of Rætikon doesn’t follow the path of usual expansiveness of metroidvanias. Instead the game sticks to the bare minimum that would be sufficient for a compact, tight and intense adventure. The number of shards in the game’s world is the exact amount that you need to activate all the altars. Seven resulting fragments will be used to start the mechanism at the center of the labyrinth. The world will collapse and transform into an unbreakable circle leaving you dumbfounded. Initially developers planned to make a trilogy out of the concept, but the concept was scrapped. So it’s an open finale which you can interpret freely.