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About the Story
"Young Gretchen could have only imagined the fanciful events that were to occur before finding herself lost in a winter wonderland." [--blurb from Competition '99]
Nominee, Best Setting - 1999 XYZZY Awards
1st Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 5th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (1999)
You're a little girl concerned about your ailing brother, and you're heading into town to buy a candle so that your family will have something to put on its solstice tree--but you stumble into a fantasy world. Thoroughly described and charming, though not necessarily to everyone's tastes--the sweetness quotient is high--and the writing is solid but sometimes gets a bit carried away. Several clever puzzles, but there's one rather unfortunate one in the latter stages of the game that most people have found frustrating. This would be a a good one for children (with the exception of the abovementioned puzzle)--there's a hint menu to help kids through the puzzles and the content is pretty benign. Includes ASCII graphics that can be disabled.
-- Duncan Stevens
Although the writing varies in quality, and at times one wishes for deeper responses to EXAMINE the whole is ultimately greater than the sum of its parts. There is a distinct "you are there" feel to the wonderland: not only can the place be pictured without effort, but anyone playing the game is likely to feel a need for a warm wool sweater. Apart from a mischievous snow sprite, the NPC's are not individually memorable, not because they are badly drawn but because their function is to enrich and perhaps melt into the general ambiance, not to stand out as creatures.
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Perhaps the best way to describe Winter Wonderland is that it fits very snugly within its genre, namely earnest and occasionally heart-tugging fairy tale, and does very little to push that genre's boundaries. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, especially since that in particular is ground less trodden than some areas of IF (et tu, trapped-in-the-research- lab?), but it does require that the reader accept the conventions of the genre and put aside even the remotest vestige of cynicism. Any work of fiction that deals with the holiday-time struggles of a poor family whose youngest child is sick is already toeing the self-parody line; Winter Wonderland does about as well as any game could to avoid crossing the line.
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
What Winter Wonderland does so well is to combine the nifty puzzles from Trapped in a One-Room Dilly with the sense of magical landscape from Travels in the Land of Erden, and adds to the combination a thematic specificity that is all its own and that works beautifully. The links between the puzzles feel very plausible because the entire setting is very consistent, and solving the puzzles rewards the player not only by allowing advancement through the plot, but often as well by presenting another appealing image to add to the already dense atmosphere. Romping around the snowy landscape encountering sprites, fairies and dryads was a great deal of fun for me, and the intricate and ingenious ways in which they presented interlocking puzzles was a real source of pleasure as well.
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Number of Reviews: 9
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We were taken in by the humanity of the story. Got frustrated a bit from time to time, because things that we tried didn't work but the magical world can bring a smile to one's face nevertheless.
It seemed like a good pleasant wholesome counterbalance in the midst of all the bad news during the COVID-19 crisis -- to get away from a troubled and tense world into a light-hearted playful one.
Although we had to resort to the hints at times we felt victorious when we finished the story. It's nice to work through a puzzle and then be rewarded with a lively and magical setting.
It's interesting that although Gretchen needs to take things and sneak a bit she also needs to give things to others without them asking in order to make progress. This goes along with the holiday theme.
Note: At the end of the game there is some text included about contacting the author; however, the email address is no longer valid, and although we sent a message via her blog and also on Flickr we didn't get any response. The last posts on the blog along with the photos on Flickr are from April of 2014, so it's possible that she decided to disengage from social media at that time. The game was written about twenty years ago, and so at this point in time perhaps she isn't receiving feedback on it any more. We were just trying to contact her to let her know how we liked her game.
I never understood how "Winter Wonderland" got first place in '99. For a puzzle-piece it does have it's charm, and it is very well implemented, but I found the map flat, and mostly just unsatisfying, the character interactions were shallow and grating. The treacle story and prose have been commented on in other reviews, and indeed, it only exasperated my distaste for this one.
This might be of interest to puzzle aficionados and children, but probably too difficult for the latter and bit ordinary for the former.
While walking home after doing an errand in town, little Gretchen is blown off the path by a sudden snowstorm. She finds herself in a wondrous snowy land under a pale wintery moon.
Winter Wonderland is a heartwarming text-adventure. The wonder and amazement at the beautiful fairytale land is played completely straight, without ironic winks or nudges. It's clear that the author has gone to great lengths to envelop the player in a sincere and heartfelt warm and joyful experience.
The immersion in the story and the game-world is achieved in a few ways.
The implementation goes deep enough that you can examine and interact with most pieces of the surroundings, many giving an extra immersive dimension to the already evocative descriptions.
You will meet many fantastic creatures, all enjoying the winter solstice in their own festive manner. All of them will smile and acknowledge you when you greet them. You can strike up a conversation with a good deal of them.
The map is easily visualized, with the dense forest where little Gretchen appeared to the south and the snow-capped mountains so far to the north that they appear as unreachable bluish shapes far to the north. Still, there are enough little sidepaths and bottlenecks to keep it interesting.
Allthough the puzzles are mostly friendly and easy, fetching an object for an NPC to exchange it for the next item. Most of these puzzles do have an intermediary step that is not so obvious, making solving them satisfying. Two puzzles jumped out as being especially nifty, requiring a bit of thinking around the corner. These raised my appreciation for the puzzles and the game as a whole.
A very smooth, warm and friendly playing-experience. Perhaps best enjoyed with a steaming mug of cocoa and a snuggle-blanket.
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