Bound together by a rope attached to each of their waists, two young Ilk, Mokh and Tarh, must complete a ritual in the 'Old World,' a mountainous jungle full of statues and colorful temples. And two co-op players have to manage this precarious situation together, using their unbreakable tether to climb sheer cliff faces, swing over deep canyons, and solve puzzles.
I played through a demo of Rite of Ilk with Turtleneck Studios’ co-founder Alanay Cekic at PAX East this past weekend. It was a slightly less than authentic co-op experience, given that Cekic didn’t want to spoil the solutions for me by interjecting. But despite my partner acting only at my directive, we made decent progress through the available areas.
The rope holding Mokh and Tarh together is the central element of most of the light physics puzzling. The two characters can only get about 25 feet apart from one another, meaning solutions have to be worked out collaboratively in the same space. The rope can be used to wrap around objects to move them or for one player two swing anther across open air. It’s also apparently a way to conduct energy, as one puzzle had us using it to complete a circuit between metal pillars.
To cross a ravine, we find a precariously perched pillar and wrap our rope around it. By walking forward together, we topple the stone structure and create a bridge across to the other side. In another area, a set of pressure plates sit below a series of platforms protruding from a cliff face. Each pressure plate activates two or three of the platforms, pushing them out of the wall. While Cekic (playing as Tarh) walks from plate to plate, I jump along the platforms before they can retract until I reach the opposite side. Once I’m safely across, Cekic presses a button to wave Tarh’s hand. I respond with a wave from Mokh that lets Tarh teleport to my location.
Later in the game, Cekic lets on that Mokh and Tarh will face three different boss fights. Cekic describes these encounters as “outsmarting the beast” in that the two young Ilk will need to use their rope and the environment to their advantage to take these foes down. Players will have to think and respond quicker in these situations, unlike the demo in which I have plenty of time to ponder solutions while Cekic looks on.
The puzzles I encountered were not brain benders, largely playing on the maximum distance of the rope, using it as a swing, or pooling the characters’ collective weight to move objects they couldn't alone. Although I spent a couple moments scratching my head on the show floor, I imagine the puzzle-solving juices will flow better on my own couch.
Puzzles later in the game may be trickier, but I don’t imagine that Rite of Ilk is setting out to be a difficult game, nor do I really want it to be. When playing a puzzle game with a friend, the enjoyment can be as much in the time spent together as it is feats of ingenuity (and Rite of Ilk is meant for all ages).
Together or separate
Online co-op, especially with a stranger, may make things more challenging. Turtleneck Studios initially didn’t plan to support online play at all, insisting that Rite of Ilk is meant to be played together. They got so much enthusiasm for online play, however, that they decided to allow players to complete the journey together online either by inviting a friend or another random player.
There won’t be any voice communication support, Cekic tells me, as they cannot control player-to-player communication and Turtleneck Studios is committed to making Rite of Ilk accessible to all age groups. Instead, Rite of Ilk will later include gestures that Mokh and Tarh can make to one another so that players can collaborate without their voices. Although Cekic didn’t didn’t divulge what these gestures might be, pointing and waving sound like two obvious choices.
There’s always the possibility of physical griefing, even in a game which is supposed to be cooperative, but Rite of Ilk's design settles that concern. I’m not able to drag my partner over a cliff, for instance. I’ll simply hang off the edge by my rope without affecting them. Instead, the ability to request and accept your partner teleport to your location is a key part of several puzzles that can also get your partner out of a nasty jam. During my own time playing, I fell off more than one precarious perch thanks to my abysmal platforming skills, which Cekic was able to rescue me from.
Being tied together, then, is more empowering than hindering—unless later puzzles, or perhaps the boss fights, create more peril and tension between the young adventurers. Rite of Ilk looks gorgeous already, and Turtleneck Studios is currently expecting a release date in the summer of 2019 after they have a chance to fine tune its puzzles and finish implementing the rest of Rite of Ilk’s colorful jungle environments.