HIGH The first karaoke minigame.
LOW Losing the ‘stack’ minigame four times in a row.
WTF The first time a source is revealed.
A fascinating, small-scale narrative with meta elements coming from Denmark developer Triple Topping, Welcome to Elk is a bright spot in 2020.
This 2D indie introduces main character Frigg as she’s arriving on Elk Island to apprentice in a woodshop for the summer. Once there, she’s soon introduced to the residents and becomes enmeshed in close-knit, small-town life.
Elk is only a few hours long so I’d be doing a disservice by outlining the plot, but the experience is about the experience. While there are several surprisingly pleasant minigames along the way, the bulk of playtime is spent talking to residents and walking Frigg from place to place. I don’t say this as a negative, but players should expect focus to be on the narrative, and it’s a linear one.
Living in a small community where people see each other every day and everyone wears multiple hats is a very specific kind of life, and Elk does a great job of giving the player a taste – when close proximity with someone is assured, how honest can one be with them? What things must be tolerated in the spirit of getting along? What happens when someone crosses a serious line?
Beyond that, Elk adds a meta layer by revealing that it was created from real-life stories that are reworked and stitched together to create an all-new whole.
Triple Topping is quite clear about these inspirations and shares its sources, so seeing how the script was crafted as Frigg is living through it is a strange sensation that I’m not sure I’ve encountered before – it’s seeing how the sausage is made, yet still enjoying it on the plate. I was both outside the narrative and still within it.
The presentation of Welcome to Elk is equally interesting. The soundtrack is lovely and offers some haunting vocals, and the graphics – while intentionally simple – are nuanced by illustrating the world in black and white while things Frigg is meant to interact with are in color. It’s a great way of keeping the player focused and de-emphasizing whatever’s irrelevant at the moment. It’s quite elegant.
Welcome to Elk is a fascinating experiment in game creation that succeeds on multiple levels, and players interested in storytelling, small-town life, or the intricacies of working with meta-elements would do well to check it out.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Triple Topping. It is currently available on PC and Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBO. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Language, and Crude Humor. While the appearance suggests something warm and kid-friendly, I’d actually slot this one as more of an M due to several themes that young ones might find disturbing, such as killing a pet or aggressive males suggesting a probable rape. Older teens and grownups only.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are no auditory cues for gameplay and all dialogue is subtitled (see above). The subtitles cannot be altered or resized. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. The setup is pretty straightforward here — the left stick moves Frigg, A confirms, and B cancels.