IFComp ’09: Snowquest

Well this was a weird one. I’m a little disappointed. I enjoyed Eric Eve’s last game, Nightfall, and I had high hopes for this one. Snowquest is a competently made game–nicely implemented, with some good puzzles, and some striking imagery. But the story? Hoo-boy. Silly and weird and inconstant. I break it down bellow.

Heavy spoilers in this one. You are warned.

Snowquest starts with the protagonist trudging through a hostile snowy environment towards an ominous mountain. Flashbacks reveal that he’s searching for the ancient’s mystical book of knowledge that will explain why winters have grown so harsh. And yes, the game does take place in some sort of apocalyptic future where the ancients are modern man. I’m getting real sick of this cliche. It’s no longer a shock when ancients are revealed to be us. At least it happens early on here. The rest of the mountain trek has some enjoyable puzzles that are largely realistic. Though how our hero can climb a mountain on just a handful of berries after days with no food is suspect. In any case he reaches the top of the mountain, finds the book unreadable, and falls into an exhausted sleep.

Upon waking he is back at the base of the mountain. Exploring a ways he comes to the wreckage of a small airplane. He’s shocked to find that the pilot his him (and the game reveals to us that our protagonist is female. A nice twist). The game jumps setting and we find that everything we just experienced was a hallucination of the pilot’s brought on by a mysterious stranger’s crystal. This stranger approached the pilot in on her way to deliver a package to remote mountain science station. He warns her that the package might not be the electrical equipment she thought it was but rather drugs. He tells her that he’s an FBI agent and now she must decide to trust him or not.

I was intrigued at this point. What seemed to be a simple snowy quest game turned into something stranger. There are clues within the first part that points that the package might be computer equipment or drugs and everything is very vague. Why, for instance, can the FBI agent create such an vision with his crystal? His counterpoint in the vision is that of a wolf, who is vaguely menacing but never hostile. At this point the protagonist can choose to trust the friend who wants the package delivered and fly to the mountain or to meet FBI agent and give the package to him. If you she chooses to fly, she gets caught in a snow storm and dies, just like the vision predicted.

So the game railroads the pilot into meeting the FBI Agent, who turns out to be a bad guy who wants the package. He’s dispatched in the same what that his wolf form was in the vision and the friend who asked the protagonist to deliver the package shows up, relieved. It turns out the package was computer gear all along. So, as a player, if you trusted your friend you would have died. But trusting the faux FBI agent isn’t correct either as he’s manipulating you. But that’s the correct choice gamewise. It’s a very unsatisfying ending. I felt like I had betrayed my friend. Not that he cared.

What does the beginning quest stuff have to do with the ending? Nothing. I kept waiting for the two parts to reconcile themselves. It feels like the story got away from Eve or that he ran out of time. It’s very disappointing in the end. The snowy quest stuff at the start was fun if a little cliched. The second half intrigue was lame and felt rushed. The only part of the game that really worked was the nebulous middle where it was clear that there was more to the game than just questing in the snow. If only the rest of the game had lived up to this promise.

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One response to “IFComp ’09: Snowquest

  1. Pingback: IFComp ‘09: Final Scores « Games Journal

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