A Midsummer Night’s Scream
Poking around social media channels for new and interesting indies always pays off, especially when I end up connecting with an indie developer making a game showcasing something unique from their culture. This was true with A Space for the Unbound with Indonesian culture, Embracelet with Norwegian culture, and now I hope she’s ok with Finnish culture. An immersive and atmospheric mystery that blends traditional Finnish traditions and folklore with the realities of modern lifestyles, I hope she’s ok is a beautiful walking simulator that will lure you in with its gorgeous graphics only to cause that special kind of anxiety that comes with a sense of being watched. The debut game by Finnish solo indie dev inkakamu, it’s a short but sweet tiny title with multiple endings, an original soundtrack, and even real sound effects taken from the Finnish countryside.
In I hope she’s ok, players take on the role of Uuna, an avid social media user who seems to have her phone surgically attached to her hand. She’s on her way to visit her friend Kaisa, who lives in the Finnish countryside, as she typically does each year for the Midsummer holiday. Upon her arrival, she notices her door ajar and her friend nowhere to be found. After searching the immediate area, Uuna finds no trace of Kaisa; curiosity quickly turns to concern, and Uuna frantically resorts to opening Kaisa’s mail, digging through her personal belongings, and even reading her diary for clues as to Kaisa’s whereabouts. As Uuna investigates, she uncovers some troubling information about a mysterious water spirit called the Näkki and how Kaisa believes she’s spotted it around her home. Did the Näkki nab Kaisa, or is something more mundane afoot? It’s up to Uuna to find out.
I hope she’s ok really channeled the mantra of “every frame a painting.” For such a short experience, I took so many screenshots just because of how beautiful the environments were. It’s not that they were incredibly realistic, more that they were inviting and relaxing, which really made me feel at ease. Since part of the mechanic in I hope she’s ok is to take photos on your phone and upload them to what I presume is a finsta, it felt natural to keep snapping away at every pretty thing I saw. Coupled with the relaxing sounds of nature, I felt somewhat transported to a cozy cottage in the Finnish countryside, a relaxing mini-vacation… if only for a moment.
I say that, because, as I’ve said before, I try to go in as blind as possible when it comes to games so I don’t have any preconceived notions, so when I actually saw glimpses of the Näkki I actually got a little freaked out. It’s not a scary game, mind you, but I went from feeling safe to feeling like someone was watching my every move, which was pretty unsettling. You can upload photos and status updates that, at player’s choice, can betray a sense of skeptical trepidation or scared faith in the supernatural, and depending on which tone you set, you’ll get a different endings. I played through multiple times to see the differences between them, and one is certainly more eerie than the other.
Although I did get a little stuck on one step (when in doubt, check the fallen log), there weren’t really any hiccups in the flow of I hope she’s ok, which is critical to get right in the genre. Additionally, I loved the opportunity to learn more about Finnish culture and folklore, with so many details lovingly added into the environments. Objects like a sauna elf, bark bread, or the kuksa, a traditional hand-carved drinking cup, adorn Kaisa’s abode. Context of all the things observed is provided through interactions on social media, where followers might comment on the bread’s taste or the sauna elf’s expression. It all felt quite natural, not only in how the items were introduced but also discussed, the conversations fresh instead of forced.
Although I really enjoyed my time with I hope she’s ok, I ran into some minor issues. Hitting escape brings up the pause menu, but hitting the controls button doesn’t allow you to go back to the main portion of the pause menu, meaning if you want to exit the game you’ll have to force quit. I also found myself wishing for a run feature, accidentally hitting shift from time to time to bring up my phone instead of speeding me up. There were some loose ends that I didn’t feel were quite tied up story-wise, and if they were, perhaps they were too nuanced for me to pick up properly. I hope she’s ok is also extremely short, which I know can be a turn-off for some players, but I personally felt like the price was fair for the experience so I do hope that’s not a deterrent for those on the fence, as all other aspects were glitch-free.
I have only one real complaint, and that’s that I felt really uncomfortable with sharing some of the information uncovered about Kaisa on social media. I get that it was likely on-brand for Uuna to talk about every single thing that pops into her head, but telling what I presume to be the entire world that this extremely private person is on anti-depressants or that I opened her mail without her permission kicked up my anxiety more than seeing the Näkki. It’s possible there is a route where you don’t have to overshare, but in some instances it did appear that the next scene didn’t trigger until I told everyone about my illegal escapades. It’s one thing to go ahead and commit the crime, but to not only take a photo of the pills or opened mail to incriminate myself AND have people tell me I’m terrible after posting? Look, I’m not saying it’s wrong to have that in the game if that’s the route you want to take, I would have just loved a path that allows me to NOT talk about doing that. You know, for the sake of morality options. My poor nerves got GOT for sure.
I hope she’s ok is a walking simulator off the beaten path that is a learning experience as much as it is an enjoyable, atmospheric one. I had a great time with I hope she’s ok, playing it three times to completion to ensure I had seen everything there was to offer. This, of course, was followed by googling all the traditional touches I had encountered and learning tons of new things about Finnish culture and folklore. If you want a short adventure in the Finnish countryside with spoopy twists and turns straight out of a Finnish folk legend, be sure to pick up I hope she’s ok on Steam, or in the very least, check out the demo!
Editor’s Note: Since this review’s publication, the developer has addressed several issues mentioned, including the ability to run and the ability to get back to the main menu by hitting escape.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: inkakamu; Developer: inkakamu; Players: 1; Released: November 13, 2020; MSRP: €8,00
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of I hope she’s ok given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.