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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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>VERBOSE -- Paul O'Brian's Interactive Fiction Page
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: 8
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
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.
Many people seem put off by the homey charm of this Christmas game, perhaps more interested in gore or adult content. But this ASCII-art using winter game is deep and well-polished, and on the longer end for an IFComp game. It won the comp for a good reason.
First, it is beautiful. Visually, the ASCII art and color scheme help the immersion (I loved the snowflakes in the status bar). And the descriptions and responses of the text are all well-crafted and contribute to the atmosphere significantly.
Second, the puzzles are ingenious, though some reasonable alternatives are not implemented. The majority of the game centers on magical creatures, and working with them. NPC interaction is present, though limited, as is usual in games of this time period.
The story starts out extraordinarily over sweetly, but I enjoyed it, and it soon became a magic-themed puzzle fest. This game drew me in, and I would love to see more games with a fun family atmosphere instead of gritty dystopias or gruesome underground labs.
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This is version 6 of this page, edited by Zape on 18 April 2021 at 4:59am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item