WELCOME TO ELK! A mysterious island, filled with mysterious people who all have a story to tell, and way too much beer. Welcome to Elk is a biographical adventure/visual storytelling game focusing on true stories told by characters based on real people. Developed and published by Triple Topping, this awesome little indie is available on PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
You play as Frigg, a young apprentice carpenter who has moved from the city to learn under an old family friend. Although Frigg thinks life may be slow on this small island of Elk, she is soon shown that life is very, very different. On Elk, Life may seem hard sometimes, but it is always followed by laughter. A firm sentiment to upcoming events on the island. As stated earlier, every character in the game is based on a person and their real-life experiences. The developers have stated that the game is based on the “stories of life on the road less traveled”, and these stories had some real-life grit thrown into them.
With scenes including death and prostitution, this game quickly stunned me. I WAS NOT expecting such hardcore scenes in a cute little indie, but still, the stories had me compelled. I was itching to see and hear of the characters’ trials and tribulations. That was until I tried to load my save only to find it had vanished quicker than my paychecks. So, restarting, I tested out the saving mechanism. There is an autosave feature, however, there is no way to manually save the game, and with my current experience of autosave, I was a bit dubious. Nothing is worse than spending a few hours in a game to not only see the game save, but to load it up and see no save files and hours of progress lost.
The main island of Elk is devoid of colors with black and white backgrounds, however, all the characters and interactable items were vibrant and colorful, quickly stealing the attention of my eyes and letting me know “hey bigfoot! Come touch me and find out what I do,” then bam! The game hits me with a squid holding a knife, ready to shank like he was still in cell block D. The entire game is visualized in a beautiful hand-drawn art style, and the contrasting black and white backgrounds/colorful point of interest made traversing the game simple. The colorful POI’s let me know what was useable and prevented me from running around spamming the space bar trying to figure out what was useable and what wasn’t.
Inbetween being Sherlock Holmes and discovering the stories of the locals, the game is broken up by some unique and fun mini-games. Mini-games I haven’t experienced anywhere else. These mini-games blended in with the main stories very well and didn’t break immersion, the interviews, however, did. Not only did some videos not have audio (which further broke immersion), they just sort of popped up at the end of a story, and transitioning from the artwork of the game to an IRL video felt out of place.
If only the devs had made these interviews accessible in the player’s own time, like the written stories that appear in bottles in Frigg’s house, then I think this method wouldn’t have taken away from the game. Having the interview play straight after experiencing the story in-game broke immersion, like, I just experienced this in-game. Although it was drawings, the way they portrayed these experiences was amazing.
Along with the great visuals, the audio was amazing. The background music was comprised of feature-length compositions, not 40-second loops that constantly repeat until you feel like your mind is slowly slipping into madness. The soundtrack was filled with different themes, including adventurous, drunken, high energy, distressing, and even lonely. All these themes sounded like real recordings and not just computer-generated loops. The soundtrack was one of the best parts of the game. Effect sounds were also great. Walking over the shrimp, or prawns for the Australian’s out there, just after they had evacuated from my insides after one too many beers made an oddly satisfying squishy squelchy sound.
Although this game may look cute and child-friendly, it’s far from it. From vulgar language to dark and distressing themes, it caught me a little off guard, however, it made the game what it is. It may look like a cute and fun little indie, but it’s all about the real-life stories, and the way the developers interpret these IRL stories into an interactive visual novel.
The stories had me curious from the start, and had me asking a lot of questions through my playthrough like is everyone dead? Why is there so much beer hidden all over the place? What is going on in Elk? I had to play more, I had to find out and discover these avenues. Welcome to Elk is a fantastic indie and a great title for me to kick the year off with. I highly recommend the game to everyone.
- Intriguing stories
- Colored POI’s helped with knowing what should be interacted with
- Great soundtrack
- Unique minigames
- Autosave is not always reliable
- No manual saving option
- Some videos had no audio
- Storyteller videos break immersion