The Shadow In The Snow

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You will shoot the monster as fast as you shoot a werewolf, December 11, 2020
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2020

A short, sharp horror game, Shadow in the Snow doesnít have much in its quiver besides some effective description of a frozen wood and a single kinda-wonky puzzle, but given its focused ambitions Iím not sure it needs much else. The backstory is wholly elided Ė the main character has run their car into a snow-ditch in the middle of nowhere, but we get no details on who they are, where they were going, or the state of the world (Spoiler - click to show)(I could by wrong on this, but felt like the characters didnít seem especially surprised about the existence of giant bloodthirsty werewolf-monsters). Since the focus is on short-term survival, this isnít a fatal misstep and in fact helps establish a feeling of woozy confusion that winds up being a little effective at drawing the player in.

Thereís not a lot to do here Ė it becomes clear early on that thereís something stalking the main character, and they need to explore a limited set of locations in order to obtain the clues and knowledge to fight back. Iím not sure how fair the puzzle was Ė I think you need to explore the locations in a specific and nonintuitive order (Spoiler - click to show)(stumbling around in the snowy forest instead of going up the road to a motel seems less than obvious!) and involved a situation I found quite contrived (Spoiler - click to show)(there are just gold, silver, and arsenic shotgun cartridges available off the shelf, labelled only by their elemental symbols? This is why I wonder about whether the supernatural is a known quantity in this world) plus there are a fair number of deaths possible and no save option, meaning youíre in for a full replay if you guess something wrong. Still, there are some clues to most of the key pieces of the puzzle, and I got to a good ending first time through, so I think it works well enough.

The prose generally fits this spare premise. It doesnít go into a ton of noodly detail, but it does effectively communicate the isolation of being alone in a snowy forest. Thereís also an abandoned motel, and some gore, which are described in similar style and which works well enough, but winter landscapes are my favorite backdrop for horror so the woodsy bits were my favorites. The signs the monster is stalking you are also effectively spooky, though I thought the eventual confrontation was maybe a bit anticlimactic Ė certainly the ending felt more abrupt than I was expecting.

On clicking restart to replay, I found what might be some small bugs related to variables not being cleared (Spoiler - click to show)(if I went to the motel before the cabin, I was able to pick up cartridges and load them into a shotgun I hadnít yet obtained, and the description for the motel reception area said it was ďthe same as beforeĒ even on my first visit) but otherwise the implementation seemed fine, and I didnít notice any typos. SitS didnít knock my socks off, but itís a pleasant enough ten minutes of being stalked through the woods which is sometimes all that one wants.

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hovinarri, December 12, 2020 - Reply
thanks for the crit... very fair it is too!!!
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