Geeked Out: A Good Snowman is Hard to Build

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 at 11:50 AM
Geeked Out: A Good Snowman is Hard to Build by John Lindvay

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build is a puzzle game about, well, building snowmen. It is deceptively simple and wonderfully appropriate for the mid-winter blues. 

A Good Snowman is a Sokoban-style puzzle game. While many of you might not have heard of the term Sokoban before, it is very likely you’ve played a Sokoban puzzle game. Sokoban means “warehouse keeper,” and it refers to a style of 2D puzzle games where players must push blocks to find the exit or solution to the puzzle. Some of the earliest games you might have played probably involved pushing blocks around.

I love this particular interpretation of puzzle games a lot. It makes the simple gameplay of pushing balls around into this delightful experience of constructing a snowman. In A Good Snowman there are three differently sized balls that are used to build a snowman. You must roll them in order, largest to smallest, to construct the snowman. After doing so, the familiar trappings of a snowman are then popped on and we can see the name of our new friend. Click on the completed snowman and our lumbering character gives it a hug. 

Yes, a hug. I told you this game was delightful.

The puzzles escalate in difficulty, but not in a way that will leave you frustrated. At first you are rolling the balls around on clear ground, but later on you must roll through snow which increases the size, adding another layer of planning to the mix. Alan Hazelden, the game’s creator, has been making puzzle games like this for a long time and I have loved every one of the games I’ve played of his, but A Good Snowman is his best work yet. The learning curve and solutions feel natural and just at your fingertips. 

The game is lush and full of wonderful interactions with the various objects your character discovers in this wintry garden. You can sit on a park bench and the map will zoom out, giving you the lay of the land. See a tree give it a kick! It has a toylike quality in that all objects can be tapped and we are given a reaction. 

A Good Snowman has become a treat I return to in the winter to remind me of those cold winter nights back in Erie. I often like to think of games not just as pieces of media we consume, but as confidants: friends and companions. Why else would we keep the cases on shelves long after we finish playing, other than to look at them longingly to remember the fun times we had together. A Good Snowman is similar to a good friend, who challenged you but always found a way to help keep you motivated. A good friend also doesn’t block you or force you to struggle. A good friend knows when to give you space and let you wander.

The game was originally released last Febuary on PC/MAC/Linux, and just last December it was released on iOS and Android. So while it might be a bit blustery outside, it’s always a pleasure to cozy up to a nice puzzle game to help pass the time. 

John Lindvay can be contacted at jLindvay@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @Fightstrife.

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