“A tragedy is a tragedy, and at the bottom, all tragedies are stupid. Any fool with steady hands and a working set of lungs can build up a house of cards and then blow it down, but it takes a genius to make people laugh.” – Stephen King
Developer: Triple Topping
Releases: 2020 TBA
Platforms: PC, Mac
Available on: Steam
NOTE: This review is based on a pre-release demo of the game.
Welcome to Elk is a charming adventure game set on a fictional island full of true stories and tall tales, and inhabited by the people who lived them. Play as Frigg, a young carpenter starting a new life in a small town and meet the plethora of weird and wonderful residents within.
The game has a fun cartoon-style aesthetic with curvy line art and cute characters. The artwork is mostly black and white with bright pastel shades dotted throughout to indicate available interactions. This is paired with a fun and jaunty animation style creating a fun visual experience.
There is no voice acting in Welcome to Elk but the ambient sound effects help create a sense of the environment along with the entirely diegetic in-game music which ranges from jolly and playful to sombre and really quite moving.
Gameplay and Narrative
The basic premise of the game is to explore the island of Elk and listen to the backstories of the eclectic bunch of people who inhabit it. Their emotive tales are based on dramatic real-life events and tragedies adding a layer of poignancy possibly unachievable by pure fiction. Players will also be shown video footage and hear each account directly from the living storytellers who inspired Triple Topping to make Welcome to Elk!
Whilst traversing the environment and interaction with different characters there are a number of opportunities to play some quite silly, but enjoyable mini-games including pouring beers, making balloon faces and singing. These are subtly woven into the mesh of narratives that make up the game and make a welcome and playful addition to the title.
Welcome to Elk provides players with a uniquely whimsical and touching experience. The stark juxtaposition of the comically twee styling and silly mini-games with the heartbreaking nature of the stories creates a whiplash-inducing emotional rollercoaster. The various accounts sometimes touch incredibly sensitive subject matter such as death, alcohol abuse and violence; this is done sensitively despite the more jovial aspects of the game and manages to feel authentic and touching rather than distasteful in any way.