snowflake

REVIEW / Snowflake’s Chance (PC)

 

Carl Morgan is very good at two things: 1. Drawing dinosaurs. 2. Creating deliciously macabre and hilarious environments in which an unlucky rabbit can suffer 99 times over. In Snowflake’s Chance – the first release from his eponymous game and art studio, CarlMorganArt – he has personally designed and handcrafted every facet of the game over the course of 18 months.

 

 

Snowflake’s Chance has a simple premise: you’re a wee little rabbit who falls down into the hellish landscape known as The Pit and you now have to climb your way back up to the surface. The player is given 99 lives to squander carefully use in their journey to the surface. Each time Snowflake dies, a malevolent ghost called Evil Snowflake grows stronger. What happens when you manage to use all 99 lives? Morgan says that the game will effectively reset. Although you can continue, it isn’t advised.  Bull-headed as I am, if I had nothing better to do with my precious weekend nights than send Snowflake plummeting into pools of lava over and over, you better believe I’d find out what waits on the other side of zero lives.

I was instantly sold on the game because it was inspired by an old love of mine: Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. While the two games look nothing alike, they share a few key traits. Both games share a brutal level of dark humor which predominantly appears in places such as menus, death screens, helpful hint notice boards in the same way that Oddworld used scrolling sassy jokes on neon signs in Rupture Farms. Have you ever had a game tell you something so blunt as “you are weak and ineffectual”? That’s what you can expect from Snowflake’s Chance.

 

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This title is also hard – like, really hard. In much the same way that I would call pre-New ‘n’ Tasty Abe’s Oddysee “unforgiving” with its lack of frequent checkpoints and teeth-grindingly frustrating puzzles and sneak segments, Snowflake’s Chance provides a real challenge that I haven’t really come across since my last attempt at the Oddworld games. Even with its sparse scattering of checkpoints and merciless level design, Snowflake provides a very enjoyable banging-your-head-against-the-wall experience. However, I’m not an avid (read: very competent) PC gamer and I found the controller support to be a bit floaty, so I think if I was to persist past the first area I would need a proper port to PS4 or PSVita.

You read correctly – I couldn’t squeeze past the first area. The Pit is designed so that the entire level runs through the one area, though obviously the level design changes as you progress. When you find a checkpoint, upon your next death a helpful crow will drop you from that point and you can manoeuvre Snowflake to land roughly where you want him to be. Then you have to resume your climb, going back for any items you may have collected on your last life, because now all of those are gone.

 

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Gamers familiar with Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee will get a delighted giggle out of being able to hide and go shadow-y behind certain objects and plants as a means of stealth. I know this because I did so giggle with delight when I snuck past a stupid giant enemy using this technique.
There isn’t any fall damage, (although you can absolutely fall on things that will cause your death instantly, such as huge spikes and pools of lava), but you can very easily miss a jump or slip from high up in The Pit and end up all the way at the bottom again. Do you feel your frustration growing yet? I bet you do, and it’s addictive. While you could easily give up and say that the game is too hard, Snowflake’s Chance quickly turns into an intoxicating game of “just one more life.”

As I stated earlier, I’m not especially great at using PC controls, but Snowflake is pretty easy to control because there isn’t much to the gameplay. Up/Down arrow keys are used to hide or to read signs and devour health items or…decoy items, like helpless puppies. Space is used to jump, shift is used to regurgitate said decoy items, tab is to view your list of items and control is used to smack things around, with or without a weapon. The controls are tight and satisfying to use, though as I said earlier – stay clear of using a controller for the game because it simply isn’t as responsive. As a word of feedback for the developer, I would highly recommend changing the controller controls so that up on the analogue stick does not also count as an up on the d-pad/arrow key would. I got stuck climbing walls and reading signs on the upcoming ledge at the same time, which was a tad irritating.

 

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Carl Morgan creates spectacular art, and Snowflake’s Chance is no exception. Despite having an oldschool 2D blocky wall ad floor aesthetic, the game looks crisp and inviting. The sprites don’t look overly pixelated and, providing you have a fairly big screen, you should be able to see every little bit of  blood and gore when Snowflake gets ripped to shreds by enemies. In terms of music, the developer’s comment about the soundtrack on his website says exactly what I want to say but in fewer words:

The soundtrack is painstakingly crafted for the game, with iconic melodies that will stick in head long after you’ve rage quit!

I copy-paste this statement while the level theme rolls around in my head with abandon. And it’s good, too! There are also subtle little changes to the music as you progress through the game and encounter enemies and other obstacles. The only other sounds you’re likely to hear are the fluttering of enemy wings, Snowflake’s agonized cries and the gentle hum of the environment (e.g. bubbling lava). For a game that will keep you in the same place for hours at a time, a soundtrack like this is a necessity.

 

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Despite my never-ending struggles over quite a few days playing the game, my skills improved drastically even after short rage quits breaks. In terms of recent releases, particularly in the indie market, this is one of the most enjoyable bang-your-head frustrating-delightful games I’ve played. Players without a dark sense of humor and a willingness to keep all their lives need not apply.

 

 

 

This preview is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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