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Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley review

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley review
Brian Hobbs avatar image

A charming, family-friendly place to park oneself, whether for newcomers or fans of Tove Jansson’s beloved novels

I knew almost nothing about Snufkin or Moomins or their idyllic but weirdly disaster-prone valley before I started playing Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley, the cozy musical adventure from Nordic studio Hyper Games. Since then, I’ve dipped into three of Tove Jansson’s original books, my kids have been watching the 1990s animated TV series, and my wife just bought a journal that has three of the characters illustrated on the cover. Moomin fandom and subculture has a way of sneaking in, and I have this game to thank (blame?). On that front, I suspect you’ll get a fair bit more out of the game if you already have some history with these characters and can ride the waves of cameos and nostalgia. But while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the books (though that’s a tall order, I suppose), that didn’t stop my whole family from being charmed by the exquisite art and music, and drawn in by the quirky denizens of Moominvalley and the simple but pleasant adventuring.

“You must go on a long journey before you can really find out how wonderful home is.”
– Snufkin (Comet In Moominland, 1946)

Snufkin is a nature-loving, free-spirited wanderer with a tattered green hat and a harmonica, and every fall and winter he travels south from Moominvalley to warmer climes, leaving his best friend Moomintroll behind. This year, after spending his months alone doing … whatever it is that Snufkin does (fishing? walking? philosophy?), he returns to the valley to find, to his horror, manicured parks and gardens with rows of square-cut hedges, cast-iron fences, and lots of signs and notices prohibiting all manner of activities, from running to camping to smelling. The strict and straight-laced Park Keeper is responsible and has ravaged the valley of much of its wild, natural beauty and even caused the river to dry up. Worse still, Snufkin’s friend Moomintroll seems to be missing.

“Isn’t life exciting! Everything can change all of a sudden, and for no reason at all!” 
– Moomintroll (Moominpappa at Sea, 1965)

Your task as Snufkin is to find Moomintroll and restore the valley to its former glory by … well, vandalizing all of the public parks, I guess. A lot of the story is adapted from Jansson’s book Moominsummer Madness, in which Snufkin pulls up all the signs in Park Keeper’s park. That takes up only part of a chapter in the book (although it has ramifications), but here that idea is expanded to become one of the central motivations of the gameplay. It works well to provide some conflict, but it is, perhaps, a slightly odd choice, especially when presented in a family-friendly way that’s not quite as knowing and nuanced as the book. Snufkin does enough property damage in this game to move him past the boundaries of general civil disobedience and into the territory of eco-terrorism, but hey, at least he plays a mean harmonica. I’m mostly being tongue-in-cheek here, but as a frequenter of public parks that might very well have signs and an occasional trimmed hedge, I’m keeping an extra eye on my kids, lest they’ve picked up any bright ideas.

“‘Flee!’” cried Moominmamma. ‘The police are here!’ She didn’t know what her Moomintroll had done, but she was convinced that she approved of it.”
– Moominmamma (Moominsummer Madness, 1954)

It’s easy to see why Snufkin’s so miffed, though. The Nordic landscape is gorgeously presented in a rich watercolor style that’s vibrant and colorful enough to belong in a children’s picture book but artful enough that I turned one sweeping vista of the valley into my desktop background. The low-framerate, hand-animated style, with its slightly flickering textures, adds to the warmth and naturalness of the environment in a way that feels comforting. The bird’s-eye perspective is almost a shame, because the handful of cutscenes or occasional layered glimpses over cliffs onto rolling hills, ocean horizon, and pale blue sky are some of the best renditions of the valley of Moomin that I’ve seen, even if they lack some of the uncanny mystique of Jansson’s original illustrations. Still, even when looking down into the grass and rocks, it’s pretty inviting.

“It would be awful if the world exploded. It is so wonderfully splendid.”
– Snufkin (Comet in Moominland, 1946)

As Snufkin, you wander the world with keyboard or controller, talking to the various valley-folk, exploring different regions of wilderness, solving simple traversal puzzles by moving around rocks and logs to climb cliffs or cross streams, and picking up a stray item or two that will be used automatically when you interact with the right object or engage with the right character. You will also collect a harmonica, flute, and drum that, when used, create a glowing area around you that will affect your surroundings in different ways depending on the context, but usually through some form of charming animals. You’ll lead ducklings to their mother, lower spiders from their webs, or get a giant crab to drop a stuffed dog, for example. 

In order for the melodies to have their intended effects, though, you need inspiration, like all good musicians. And most often you will get inspiration here, like all good musicians, by running headlong into bushes. It comes in the form of little glowing orbs that like to hide in wild shrubbery, but can also be collected through helping others in various side tasks. As you hoard your inspirational wealth, a little meter fills up, and when it reaches the top, you gain a new “level” of inspiration. Animals or obstacles will sometimes have a number displayed above them, which means they can only be charmed or dealt with when you have the corresponding level or higher. This serves to gate off certain regions of the valley until you’ve explored enough available areas to earn your passage. It’s a neat mechanic with a few subtle twists to it depending on the instrument, but it never quite feels fully utilized to its potential, as it often amounts to just pushing a button at various clearly telegraphed locations.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley
Genre: Fantasy
Presentation: Realtime 3D
Theme: Musical, Nature
Perspective: Third-Person
Graphic Style: Stylized
Gameplay: Quest
Control: Direct Control
Game Length: Short (1-5 hours)
Action: Stealth
Difficulty: Low

It’s the right evening for a tune, Snufkin thought. A new tune, one part expectation, two parts spring sadness, and for the rest, just the great delight of walking alone and liking it.
(Tales from Moominvalley, 1962)

Speaking of music, the soundtrack by composer Oda Tilset includes collaboration with the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, who helped with some of the instrumental scores, not to mention contributing two licensed songs that play at the very beginning and very end that help ratchet up the feels. The soundtrack is folksy, friendly, and minimalistic to the point where it almost blends into the landscape most of the time, but adds a lot to the beautiful visuals and relaxed pace, and occasionally peps up to something livelier when the scene calls for it. The sound design is likewise atmospheric, with gentle wind, chirping birds, and waves lapping the shore. There’s no voice acting apart from some hms and huhs, so that left my wife and I to provide all the voices to our kids, complete with awful British and Irish accents, much to their bemusement. 

But how do all these calm and friendly vibes relate to that vandalism I mentioned? Another gameplay element involves the “hideous” parks established by the Park Keeper, which are basically a set of small hedged-in areas. In order to rid the valley of their blight, you will enter each one, avoid guards in stealth fashion by distracting them or sneaking by when they’re not looking (they have cones of vision and everything), and topple statues, rip up signs, and cause general Moomin mischief and mayhem until all of the guards leave and nature is allowed to reclaim the space. I’m not generally one for stealth sections in games, but these are so quick, simple and lighthearted that I quite enjoyed them, and my kids got plenty of good laughs at others' expense as they watched me wreak anti-authoritarian havoc and get chased by these officers whenever they spotted me.

“All his life Snufkin had longed to pull down notices that asked him not to do things he liked to do.”
(Moominsummer Madness, 1954)

Apart from the stealth sections, there are a few other instances that involve slightly more action-oriented gameplay, notably an early segment where you’re getting chased through the dark woods by the dreaded (misunderstood?) ice beast known as The Groke. Sections like this might require some reflexes but are also short and highly forgiving. In fact, despite the variety of mechanics, the gameplay and puzzles aren’t complex and pose little challenge, probably aimed at younger players or just intended as a laid-back experience. The main story path is fairly linear and is delivered in the form of quests that are added to your journal to remind you where to go and what to do, and if you don’t quite know where that is, there’s a map of the valley with quest markers that will make sure you’re never lost.

The exception to this level of ease is the handful of side quests that you collect as you explore the valley and chat up the locals. Moominpappa has lost the pages of his brilliant theatrical manuscript, and you must find them hidden throughout the wilderness, usually requiring a simple puzzle of some kind to acquire. While you need at least some of these for the main quest, the rest are optional, and you won’t be spoon-fed their locations. There are other quests like this, and the number of Steam achievements I managed not to achieve by the end hints at more to explore in the game than I stumbled across in my first four-hour playthrough, so it’s nice that there’s something to offer those who enjoy a little more of a challenge.

“Strange that people can be sad, and even angry because life is too easy.”
–Moominmamma (Moominpappa at Sea, 1965)

If you’re already familiar with the Moominverse, you’ll probably appreciate all of the appearances from old friends like Little My, Too-Ticky, Fillyjonk, etc. The dialogue is lighthearted and often humorous (the conversations with the Muskrat were a favorite of mine). But somehow, even despite Snufkin’s anarchic tendencies, the story feels a bit safe and easy. To be fair, a breezy, nostalgic, Sunday afternoon sort of game is hardly a bad thing, but after reading through some of Jansson’s original stories, there’s a peculiar wistfulness, witty wisdom, and themes of hope in the face of rather perilous circumstances (comets, volcanos, floods, mid-life crisis) that don’t feel as prevalent in this game. Even the ending, while pleasant and less vengeful than I feared, is more bluntly portrayed and sentimental than the richer subtleties of other Moomin stories. That’s not to say that the game isn’t lots of good wholesome family fun, and effectively saying “it’s not as good as the books” might deservedly earn an eye roll or two, but it does borrow extensively from its source material, so I feel the comparison has to be made.

“I have every respect for your deductions, but you are wrong, completely and absolutely, and without any doubt.”
–The Muskrat (Finn Family Moomintroll, 1948)

Final Verdict

There hasn’t been a Moomin game of this caliber before, and it will be music to the ears of fans of Jansson’s whimsical world that Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley represents it so well, especially when it comes to the fantastic art direction, music, and sound design. It was a joy to explore all the different areas of the valley and bask in the peaceful ambience, meeting the large cast of characters along the way. While it doesn’t quite manage to capture the depth of character and melancholy atmosphere that Jansson’s books are well known for, and there’s something a little odd about focusing on Snufkin’s quest for vigilante justice against the local parks department, I wouldn’t let that dissuade you. The game is ultimately a celebration of the world of Moomin, and though it’s quite accessible to children, given the simple gameplay and low difficulty, it still has plenty to offer a more experienced player looking for a cozy, mostly stress-free adventure to enjoy. If you don’t know anything about Moomin, neither did anyone in my family, and yet we still thoroughly enjoyed it and my kids are even interested in a second playthrough, so we all readily give it our seven thumbs up. It’s really a very nice game, and in the words of a wise old soul… 

"All nice things are good for you.”
– Moominpappa (The Exploits of Moominpappa, 1950)

Hot take


Based on Tove Jansson’s popular book series, Snufkin is a cozy, beautifully presented adventure that’s fairly short and light on challenge, but will surely please fans and newcomers alike who are eager to take a pleasant stroll among the natural wonders and quirky characters of Moominvalley.


  • Gorgeous watercolor visuals complemented with a rich, ambient soundtrack
  • The world of Moominvalley and its large cast of familiar characters are a joy to discover
  • Stealth sections are fairly simple, but a lot of comical fun
  • Some additional side quests help add a bit more challenge
  • The whole family can enjoy this one together


  • Snufkin’s anti-authoritarian quest doesn’t quite match the sense of magic and wonder that Moomin tales typically offer
  • Lack of challenge may prove a bit underwhelming for some players
  • Music mechanics don’t feel fully explored

Brian and his whole family played Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley together on PC using a review code provided by the game's publisher. 


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