There’s a Germanic myth, across an impressive number of countries, about a water spirit who (sometimes) lures swimmers to their deaths. Known variously as neck, nokk, nix, nikker, nøkke, and nykk, amongst so many others, its most malevolent forms seem to live in Scandinavia, where it entices people into the depths with the sounds of its violin. In Finland it’s called Näkki. I mention this apropos of nothing.
Meanwhile, I Hope She’s OK is a splendid mixture of first-person adventure and lost phone puzzler. You play as Unna, off for your annual midsummers visit to your old friend, Kaisa. Kaisa lives pretty much off-grid, in the wilds of Finland, besides a beautiful lake. Each year you head up to spend time with her, catch up, swim in the lake – it’s something you always look forwards to.
But on arriving this year, you discover Kaisa’s not about. Her cabin door is unlocked, the place is undisturbed but obviously recently lived in, and it’s all a bit peculiar. So of course you start sniffing around, seeing if you can figure out what’s going on.
I Hope She’s OK’s excellent original idea is to present Unna’s narration – and indeed all the game’s dialogue – in the form of a social media feed. As you look around, trying to find your friend, you photograph and post anything that captures your attention. It’s a sort of cross between Facebook and Twitter, clearly a feed followed by a group of your friends, and it’s very quickly populated by replies, replies to replies, and piles of likes. People both agree and disagree with you, and each other, and you start to recognise personalities in the usernames. This is smartly used, both to embellish the backstory, with friends interjecting their opinions on Kaisa and her likely behaviour, and also to offer clues as to what you should do next.
It’s fair to say it could have been used slightly better, with respect to the latter. There are a couple of odd moments, people encouraging you to look for a key you’ve never mentioned, for instance. And said key is then used to open a location you’ve no use for yet, which ends up being a tiresome red herring. (I watched a couple of YouTube walkthroughs at this point, to figure out what I was missing, and tellingly both gave up at the same point.) In my case it turned out I’d hit a bug. A key that opens the mailbox wasn’t working – I restarted at the previous checkpoint, and all worked fine.
This is especially pretty, in a very pleasantly cartoony way. A huge amount of work has gone into creating hundreds of bespoke assets, making the insides of the cabin feel so authentic. (Although I do wonder where Unna was supposed to sleep, given there was only one bed and no couch.) The trees are such a pleasure to look at, too! I stopped for a nice stare. Plus it delivers an epic sunset, amongst other surprises. Oh, and is primarily the work of one person! That would be one Inka Kamula, and gosh, I’m going to be keeping an eye on what she does next.
This really impressed me. I’ve deliberately avoided discussing where the story goes, because not knowing which route it’s going to pick is a lot of the pleasure. But let me leave it by saying I was delighted with how it delivered its conclusion.
I think the social media narrative delivery is a brilliant idea, one I hope a bunch of other people have the sense to steal. It’d be lovely to see other games running with that conceit, much as so many picked up on the lost phone gimmick. But if they don’t, then I Hope She’s OK has offered it with aplomb.