A Good Snowman is Hard to Build Review
Reviewed on PC
A good snowman can be hard to build for many reasons: lack of carrots, bad fashion sense, extreme hypothermia through constant contact with below freezing temperatures, and most likely of all because there is no snow in the first place. Fortunately in this cutesy logical problem solving game from Benjamin Davis & Alan Hazelden (the brain behind the chemical bonding puzzler: Sokobond) none of these traditional issues raise their heads. Instead the only real complication this strange featureless fruit pastille-shaped monster faces is how to roll balls of snow to form that perfectly huggable humanoid shape.
The mechanics behind the puzzles in A Good Snowman is Hard to Build are just as cute as the crisp and cartoony presentation. Essentially a Christmassy evolution of classic block-pushing logic problems from Klotski to Sokoban (which is of course the inspiration behind Hazelden’s previous game); the player must direct the monster around a bushy park, pushing snowballs that grow in size as they gather more snow from the floor. A good snowman is then assembled from three piles of snow stacked on top of each other. When a snowman is completed it is adorned with garments and named, and you can almost believe you saw a hint of a smile on the monster’s mouthless face. It makes all that brain-taxing puzzle-solving worthwhile.
The difficulty gathers momentum as you progress, like a snowball rolling down a gentle learning curve, each completed snowman magically parting the bushes revealing some more cunningly positioned balls of snow behind them. Often several such gates will open leaving the player with a choice of puzzles to solve, which is a neat touch allowing one to cool off elsewhere if another problem thwarts them. Later on there are a few abstract solutions that require some real head-scratching but the game’s greatest dilemma is that it never really progresses beyond the basic concept: ending after just a few dozen snowmen are constructed. Finished by a fairly competent mind in just a couple of hours, A Good Snowman is Hard to Build lacks the depth that similar indie logic puzzles such as the epic DROD series or the maniacal English Country Tune possess, and without a level editor there is little here to entertain beyond that very short burst.
Perhaps what it loses in depth can be made up with its wonderful stylish character, each sprite lovingly drawn and charmingly animated, bringing life to an otherwise bleak white world. Somehow you can relate to this featureless avatar as it interacts with the world, leaving you wondering why this creature must build these frozen sculptures. Something that is left sadly unanswered. Meanwhile the stark but beautiful musical score that plinks distant reverb drenched piano chords over moody synths, manages to drive a sense of loneliness over the proceedings. Maybe this monster simply wants a friend.
A Good Snowman is Hard to Build feels like a game jam that has been polished beyond its initial remit. It melts with charm and character but then abruptly ends before you can drink it all in. Marketed at around £8 it is hard to recommend given its very brief nature and the more complex and complete competition. Yet if you're looking for a brief selection of intelligent logic problems and can pick it up on a particularly cold day during the developer’s “pay what the temperature is” release sale then you’ll find a short and sweet little puzzler that never outstays its welcome.