Kili's Treasure (2020)
Developer: Siddharth Sivaraman
Disclaimer: I received this game for free from the developer.
I feel pretty proud of myself when I'm able to release a review a game right on the week of its release, and I especially enjoy being able to cover smaller games that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Kili's Treasure released on Monday and the developer was nice enough to send me a copy. I read the description and saw it was about a dog, which was enough to peak my interest. Kili's Treasure is a short puzzle game about a young girl and her relationship with her former dog. It's a cute and emotional little story with satisfying puzzle elements, but it could have used a little more fine-tuning and a wider variety of gameplay to break away from repetition.
Kili's Treasure is a scavenger hunt that Kili embarks on, led by clues from her mother. The setting is simply Kili's house, and you start your quest in your bedroom with the first note you read from your mom. She mentions your grief over the fact that your dog Rosco has now "gone to the farm". Yes, I know know this is generally a safe-for-kids way to say he's passed away, but regardless the way this term keeps being repeated throughout the game leaves a little bit of uncertainty of whether Rosco is actually gone for good or if there's a chance he's coming back. As someone who had a beloved dog growing up and experienced the passing of that dog as a young girl, it hit me in a very vulnerable place. It resonated with me when Kili would express her love for Rosco even while remembering the type of shenanigans and disaster he would get up to when he was younger.
The developer of Kili's Treasure is actually from the team who made Senna and the Forest, a game I reviewed here not too long ago. Although the story and feel is very different, I can see the connection between the two in the way you solve and maneuver through puzzles. These games both like to test not only your memory, but your ability to make connections and patiently try different paths. In Kili's Treasure, it's important you inspect every item because Kili will share a memory of that item that most likely has to do with Rosco. The clues come two at a time, and you must do what the note asks in the correct order. When the clues are a little more ambiguous, it was really satisfying to get a success sound after trying different things, much like Senna and the Forest would give you feedback for correct attempts.
The pace in Kili's Treasure feels slow in a comforting, relaxing way. However, there were a few times when it felt a little too repetitive having to read clue after clue in limited area to explore. I would've appreciated if there were some interruptions, additional dialogue, or other gameplay in-between the clues. Also, perhaps some flavor text could've been thrown in when you perform specific actions to items. For example, when you open a drawer, it could say what you see inside instead of just saying your opened the drawer. It seems minute but it would motivate me to try all the actions, even if it's not what the game was asking me to do. There's some peaceful, bubbly music playing during your scavenger hunt, but the music would stop for minutes a time for no apparent reason and leave you in complete silence. It would usually start back up a good while later. However, I actually liked how the game limited you to only exploring one room at first and then unlocking more as you solved clues. Even though it was slightly limited space, it gave you a way to learn about the house little by little - by the end you knew exactly where to find "Rosco's favorite spot" or any other clue, even if it was rooms away.
Almost every single object in the house can be interacted with, and Kili gives your her thoughts and memories associated with that object. Through these responses you gain understanding of her age, personality, and past. However, I feel like along the way you learn just as much about Kili's mom. It's particularly refreshing that Kili's mom is a realistic and multidimensional character, not just there simple to serve the purpose of "mom" in a stereotypical way. You learn that mom actually likes playing videogames, keeps a stuffed animal by her bed, and has been struggling with depression.
Kili's Treasure is successful in slowly giving you enough pieces of a story just in enough time for it to really reach you emotionally. Solving the clues can vary from obvious to fairly challenging and they encourage you to really take in every part of Kili's memories and feelings about her dog in order to get them all right. It's satisfying to remember a specific detail you learned early in the game and use it to solve the clue. This is a sweet, albeit slow, little game that I'd recommend for anyone who enjoys puzzles and scavenger hunts, especially when it involves taking in very "human" information; also, I'd especially recommend it to anyone who knows what it's like to lose a best friend dog.
Kili's Treasure is available on PC.
Played on: PC
Playtime: 1.5 hrs