This game was recommended to me by another BLAEO member, so I put it on my Steam wishlist only for it to end up free on Twitch Prime. Heh heh, it seems like everything just keeps reinforcing my decision never to pay for another game (at least until I get through my PC backlog).
This is a placement-based puzzle game with grid-based movement. The map is an interconnected series of rooms, and in each room are at least three snowballs (a few have six, and one room has nine). Each room also has a different setup of solid tiles, ground tiles, and snow tiles, and the objective is to stack the snowballs in the order of largest-medium-smallest to create a snowman; once all the snowmen in a room are complete, the paths leading to the adjacent rooms become available. The trick is that if you roll a snowball onto a snow tile, the snowball increases in size and turns the snow tile into a normal ground tile (all snowballs begin placed on a ground tile), but if the snowball is already at it’s largest size, it will only remove the snow on the ground, so what you have to do is use the largest snowball to clear a path for the other two so you can get them close enough to stack without accidentally making another snowball too big.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the game is that it’s really easy. Like, 70% of the rooms on the map are easily solved within a minute, often on your first try. To be fair, though, there were a few tricky puzzles, but only one really good one (Ben and Alan; the one with the exit gate). This is an unfortunate side-effect of many placement based puzzle games, though, and it seems like the devs knew this, so in an attempt to add a bit more challenge, they did something pretty devious: certain rooms can’t be solved until you unlock multiple entrances to them. Since all the rooms are interconnected, you might go in one direction only to have to give up and solve some other puzzles to unlock another path into the previous puzzle, then go back and forth between the two entrances to solve the puzzle. On one hand, this kinda goes against one of the reasons why I normally like placement-based puzzle games: the implication that no matter what the setup is, you can always solve the puzzle right then without having to backtrack or anything (first Broforce and now this; all the little details I thought I could use to determine whether or not I’d like a game are being subverted before my very eyes!). On the other hand, the puzzles…still…aren’t…that…hard. You can usually tell when it’s one of those rooms by looking at where the paths to adjacent rooms will appear (indicated by the shrub being hourglass-shaped instead of square-shaped)…and also the brick-wall that is “not being able to solve the puzzle on your first try,” though as I said before, the game does have a few genuinely tricky rooms, even after you wrap your head around that particular design choice.
Once you assemble all the snowmen, the north gate opens, and exiting it has the camera pan over all of the snowmen. At this point, I was ready to write the game off as another one of those Twisted-Lines/Slayaway-Camp-esque dull mobile-phone puzzle games that’s maybe worth $5 at best…but then the post-game happened. After the camera is done panning over the snowmen, you’re taken to the Negaverse; while it has the same layout as the main map, the only solid tiles are the starting archway and the benches. If you push select, you return to the exit gate on the main map. This is easily the worst part of the game: you think you’d have to do something in the Negaverse, and while you’re technically right, you’ll find that there’s nothing to do there; even if you walk out of bounds, you just loop to the other side of the map (and walking through the archway in the Negaverse does nothing). If you go back to the main map and exit through the entrance archway there, you just end up in a small map with mirrored versions of the first three main map rooms (already solved, the same way you solved them). What you have to do is go to the mirror rooms, sit on the bench (push the direction button to move into it), then lean back on the bench (push that same direction button again), then wait, at which point you’re teleported to the Negaverse version of those three mirror rooms, and now you can progress. Sure, it doesn’t take much to figure out you can sit on a bench, and sure, the benches are basically the only thing present in the initial Negaverse, but nothing else about how you’re supposed to progress is communicated to the player at all. Dang it, I play placement-based puzzle games to get away from this type of nonsensical logic! Why not just turn the benches into portals? You’d walk into it once, then immediately get taken to the corresponding place on the other map.
Anyway, now that the worst part of the game is behind us, you’ll see that, in the Negaverse, there are large snowballs in place of the snowmen you built. However, the rules are reversed: moving a snowball onto a ground tile shrinks the size of the snowball until there’s nothing left, and a snow tile is left in its place. Likewise, all snowballs start on snow tiles, and rolling a snowball on a snow tile merely prevents it from melting rather than making it grow. This is where the game really gets tricky: unless you got lucky or followed a walkthrough, you need to go back to the main map and resolve the puzzles in a way that puts the three snowmen close enough that you can build another snowman from the corresponding snowballs in the Negaverse. This might explain why most of the puzzles in the main map were so easy: they needed to have multiple ways to solve them…but the mirror map kinda defeats that. You see, once you build the first Negaverse snowman, the map zooms out to show another map with different arrangements of the main map’s rooms, with some even having all new entrance points; combine this with the fact that you can now travel to and from the Negaverse by resting on a bench (adding all new ways you can circle around the snowballs), and there’s no way you’d be able to “accidentally” solve all the puzzles in a way that lets you build all the Negaverse snowmen in one go. Also, despite all the extra steps, around half of the post-game puzzles are still pretty easy, so the real reason is probably that it’s really hard to make consistently challenging placement-based puzzles.
Once you finish building all the Negaverse snowmen, a new archway appears, and entering it brings you to an ending even more anticlimactic than the last one. It’s disappointing since the game makes you think it’s building to something what with all the ominous stuff going on in the Negaverse, but I’m glad the game focused on its puzzles instead (though said puzzles could’ve used a bit more focus IMO).
Overall, I’d recommend this game if you’re a fan of puzzles. Sure, most of the main game is easy and accessing the post-game is super arbitrary, but it does have its fair share of really challenging puzzles.
P.S. Another annoying thing about the game are the telescopes. They’re supposed to be there so you can zoom the camera out and see where you need to go next (or just admire all the snowmen), but the camera zooms out really slow, and you have to hold the direction moving into the telescope; letting go zooms right back into where you are.
EDIT: I should also point out that this might be the first time I’ve seen the parallel-universe gimmick used to create actual puzzles instead of your typical Oracle-of-Ages style “move the seed over here so it becomes a vine in the future” stuff. Pretty impressive.