Reviews by Andrew Schultz

ParserComp 2021

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Snowhaven, by Tristin Grizel Dean

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Making a meal of reflection, in a good way, January 31, 2023
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: ParserComp 2021

Snowhaven takes place in, well, winter. The object is to make a stew for your brother, who is dropping by. It has three modes, and the third is mature and thus password-protected. I played through Pleasant and Emotive, which have the same map but also have slightly different puzzles and scenery. Both were effective and a bit unnerving, and the accomplishments list at the end of the game suggested Sinister mode was very sinister indeed. I think it's what scared me off playing back in ParserComp. I'm sad I missed it now, though, and I'd like to try it some time, though.

The graphics are very attractive, black-and-white ASCII-ish stuff with some animation indicating winds and, thus, extra wind chill. They help give starkness without anything being too imposing. And, indeed, your small home and the forest surrounding it are pretty bleak. Trees and such and even a river are dark.

The one difference between Pleasant and Emotive that I won't spoil is that you need a different meat for the stew. Finding and preparing said meat is trickier and, frankly, more bloody. Again referring to Sinister mode, I'm left a bit fearful of what happens there. So the password may've been effective in unexpected ways by leaving certain bits hidden.

There is a good deal of verb-munging to make the soup (finding several items needs a small leap of logic, but one that makes sense once you figure it,) and I also had some trouble making a snare in the second part, but I think this is part of the slice-of-life experience the author intended. Nevertheless between that and the text pauses, things felt like a bit of a chore. I knew what I needed to do, and perhaps Adventuron's focus on two-word commands may've inhibited the author helping the player as much as they'd have liked. Sometimes this is very on-point--for instance, the game taps you not to leave a food locker open with wild animals around. But other times, the repetition is slightly tiresome, e.g. chopping up the vegetables and placing them in the pot yet again. There is also a bit of odd forcing causality beyond just the game nudging you to avoid a certain area for now, or to go back and dump what you have in the soup--the reason for "Emotive" requires you to do something that fits in the story, but it shouldn't logically help you find the meat you need for your stew.

So there's some mimesis-breaking and a good chunk of repetition of similar actions between the two settings, but these criticisms seem less important than noting the author has managed to create two similar, parallel stories that are effective in different ways. (Probably three. I hope to verify this one day.) So it's a very impressive work, and certainly, once it's on the back burner, it's easier to remember the inventive bits than the parser-wrangling that, at least in part, gave a proper "it's tough in winter" feel. I think people may find Snowhaven tough to get into because it's not as directly cheery as the author's other games, and a few jumps you have to make early on may seem tricky, but that shouldn't stop people from enjoying it.

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