Rauniot Review – Niche Gamer

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At some point, a game developer realized that point-and-click adventure games don’t always have to be angled at eye level or rely on pixel art. Nothing is immune to nostalgia, and now designers and gamers have realized that prerendered backgrounds have an artistry all their own, and picturesque cinematic imagery can be achieved when the angle is carefully placed.

If game designers put their minds to it, point-and-click adventure games could look like anything. Why settle for a standard template when an adventure game could look so much more stylish? Narratives are evolving, too, and genres and influences from other cultures are being melded, which leads to utterly unique experiences in the genre.

What happens when you combine a Mad Maxian post-apocalyptic Finnish wasteland steeped in Cormac McCarthy-esque imagery that’s lovingly rendered with some of the best-prerendered graphics ever? You get the unpronounceable Rauniot, an adventure game so dank and dusty you can smell it and wipe the grim off your brow as you play it.

Rauniot
Developer: Act Normal Games
Publisher: Act Normal Games

Platforms: Windows PC
Release Date: April 17, 2024
Price: $17.99 USD

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Rauniot is about Aino, a Mad Max-like bounty huntress who is what you’d get if Furiosa didn’t get involved in any action because she is too tired and disaffected to be bothered. She drives a cool car, wears a stylish jacket, and has a very frightful face tattoo that makes her look like death.

Aino is tracking a guy named Tovio, who has developed a nuclear engine, and she ends up in a dust bowl of an area full of power stations that have become dungeons. She’ll meet a few characters along the way and maybe even decide on who lives and or dies. The story is very bleak and the tone is dark, often veering into becoming downright depressing. The world is effectively screwed at this point and Aino has resigned herself and accepted there may be no hope.

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Even though all the dialogue is in Finnish, the cadence still feels like it carries a lot of weight. Characters sound defeated and tired from the constant struggle to survive. There are instances of gallows humor that show that in the face of atrophy, characters still rely on the same old coping mechanisms to mask their trauma.

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Aino is an interesting character because of her surprisingly poetically melancholic observations of the world around her. Every clickable has some kind of introspective monologue and it’s all in Finnish with a very wry monotone delivery, like some kind of noirish detective. Thankfully, Rauniot never succumbs and has Aino act like an insufferable girlboss. She is far too dry and impassive – past the point of caring and fully understanding how frail she is in the world she inhabits.

Aino is a pragmatist and keeps things real which translates to the gameplay which has very logical puzzles. Most of the time, she needs a specific tool to do something. You won’t need to figure out abstract solutions to some of these puzzles, but there is still some pixel hunting to do to find what is needed which can be lying around anywhere.

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Getting around and interacting with the world is very streamlined compared to the old cursor systems in point-and-click adventure games. You click on a spot and Aino will go there. Clicking on certain interaction points might hide an important item or lead to Aino monologing about what she sees or how it reminds her of some fucked up shit she’s seen.

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There aren’t any lose-states and Aino can’t run out of bullets since she only fires when it will lead to progress or for critical story decisions. The only thing players will need to concern themselves with is contending with some tricky puzzles. Some feel like uncompromising walls that may push some gamers into looking up a guide, but like in true old-style point-and-click fashion, the solution is in the game if you look for it and pay attention.

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The only walls players will face other than some esoteric puzzle will be finding what is needed to progress. The objects in the background are not always obvious and you may find yourself pixel-hunting to stumble upon anything that might be useful. It isn’t too uncommon to scour the maps multiple times until Aino opens some compartment that contains some tool that you were looking for.

The minimalistic UI and the menu are easy to navigate and Aino’s journal is beautifully contextualized. She has impressive art skills and there aren’t too many tabs to get lost in. Rauniot is focused and aims to keep the player exploring and focusing on solving the puzzle at hand.

The prerendered graphics and sprites are by far some of the best realized. Every speck of dirt, grime, or stick of debris makes this world feel lived in. The stillness of the prerenders makes the world feel more dead than what a real-time 3D model would imply. The compositions and lighting choices are striking and keep the important subjects in the shots in focus.

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A drawback of Rauniot is its lack of English audio. While the Finnish voice acting is probably good, having to read small text on a screen when the visuals are so important is a letdown. It would have been nice to be able to not have to squint to read and have dialogue I can understand.

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There is no controller support which is a shame since it has become a viable input method in adventure games. This is especially troublesome for any gamer with a Steam deck since setting it up with a mouse is not a graceful means to experience Rauniot on the go. Using a mouse is probably the best way you could play this, but options are always preferred over none at all.

Rauniot is also a short game. As far as point-and-click adventure games go, the length is brief even for the genre. Even when getting stuck a few times, I was able to negotiate this game in about five hours. For its price, Rauniot can feel a bit too lean, especially since the climax feels rushed and replay value is low. This is also not a fast-paced game, so the whiplash from the ending compounds on the brevity.

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With a few minor pacing issues and direction choices toward the end, Rauniot still manages to be a righteous adventure game that will please fans of Sanitarium or Beautiful Desolation. Some puzzles can be tricky, but it’s worth it in the long term since it makes the experience more memorable. The visuals and writing will stand out as some of the highlights of the game.

Rauniot was reviewed on PC using a code provided by Act Normal Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Rauniot is now available for Windows PC (via Steam).

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