Secrets of Rætikon is as gorgeous and ethereal as it is tedious and poorly designed.
It’s a game about exploration and discovery, hampered by convoluted level designs and the inexcusable absence of any sort of map. It’s a game of peaceful puzzle solving and nonlinear exploration disrupted by annoyingly persistent enemies, and no means of attack to ward them off. More than anything though it’s a game of false allegations of an overarching mystery, that in the end is nothing more than a horrendously incomprehensible and random moment, preceded by an unnecessarily grotesque event that quite frankly made me sick.
At it’s core, Rætikon is constructed like a large fetch quest collectathon, requiring you to explore levels in order to collect scattered shards which can then be used to power up ancient machinery. These machines exist both in opening new pathways for you, and in presenting you with larger shards which must then be brought back to a sort of hub and deposited into the sockets of yet another large machine.
Though it had the potential to be an enjoyably open experience, allowing you to freely traverse the world as you hunt for these shards and machines, Rætikon idiotically forces you to spend an aggravating amount of time back tracking through levels in order to return to the hub. This could have been avoided with a better connected world, but with only two paths into the hub, you’re required to haul your luggage through numerous screens over and over again. This is made even more frustrating do to the inevitable games of keep away you get into with other animals, which can sometimes make the simple act of getting from one side of the screen to the other almost painful in how aggressive the other creatures are.
This all adds up to make Secrets of Rætikon an absolute chore to get through. It’s a gorgeous game, with some incredible origami-like artwork, a fantastically ambient soundtrack and great sense of atmosphere, but it’s all brought down by some horrible design decisions that sour the entire experience. When you finally get to the end it only makes matters worse, with a disturbing and baffling turn of events that sells home the point that the designers seemed to have little idea where they were going with their game, nor a clue how to get there.