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Snowman Story review

Snowman Story review
Shawn Mills avatar image

An unusually thoughtful existential journey that’s sure to melt even the hardest of hearts

Living in sunny, tropical Northern Australia, where December means scorching hot summer days (with the occasional tropical cyclone), I like the traditional notion of Christmas holidays originating from the North Pole. Snowman Story certainly looked the part, so I was expecting a game about decorative festivities, goodwill to everyone, and holiday cheer mixed with a sense of childlike wonder – that typical Christmas tale told in so many popular made-for-TV movies. The white winter wonderland setting and snowman protagonist filled me with that Frosty-like sentimental feeling for chilly days with crisp cold air spent playing in the snow and riding bobsleds. 

Snowman Story isn’t what I expected.

Instead of that familiar white winter fairy-tale however, Snowman Story is a journey of self-discovery about forming connections with others, of hope for a better future, and of what is really important in life. This isn’t a storybook, but as a character-driven adventure where the narrative is advanced mostly through the conversations the protagonist has with others, it is naturally dialog-heavy and light on puzzles. Which is good, because the story is superb while the puzzles are limited and repetitive when they occur. Together they make for a laidback adventure perfect for an afternoon by the fire (or the pool, depending on your hemisphere).

Chris, our protagonist in this delightful adventure, is a snowman built by a young boy. Complete with twisted branches for arms and a carrot for a nose, Chris is conscious of the world around him. Early in his life, Chris learns that when winter ends and spring begins, he will melt away. However, there is a ray of hope. He has heard, from a crow who seems to revel in the misery of Chris, that there is a place in the far north where it is always winter so he will never melt away. It makes sense, then, that Chris decides to travel to this mythical world of eternal snowman life.

This journey to the north is the core of Snowman Story, a linear adventure that takes you through snow-filled forests, across rivers both frozen and flowing, and even on a reindeer driver sleigh ride. In his travels Chris meets a lot of other creatures, mostly animals like a squirrel, fox, crow, and rabbit, all of them with their own tales to tell. Each story, unique to that character, usually involves dealing with a bigger issue or trauma. There is always a variety of choices in dialog, ranging from abrupt and sarcastic to kind and gentle, which will allow you to reveal their story and hopefully allow Chris to learn from them the lessons he needs to know. Without spoiling the ending, there is an emotional payoff that you’ll feel more deeply due to particular choices you’ve made and the information they provided. However, it appears that the game can be completed regardless of the decisions you make along the way.

There is a theme of regret and an acceptance of life that permeates all the characters here. The journey of a sentient snowman travelling to the north to save himself from inevitable death by melting seems like a pretty simple premise, yet this story unfolds not only through Chris’ experiences and conversations, but through the unique plot device of a magical ring that can allow Chris to experience the memories of others by touching something they owned.

One particularly poignant vignette is revealed when Chris takes a blue scarf that belonged to a snowman made by a brother and sister. However, once finished, they moved on to building other things in the snow and the snowman was left behind. This scene brilliantly showcases the emotion of feeling alone and forgotten, without actually telling you that is what the developers are trying to convey. There are many similar occasions throughout Snowman Story where you uncover another character’s memory, and all of them, while at first glance seeming self-contained, build together to form a larger picture of shared experiences. 

Snowman Story is pure 90s in both graphics and music. The pixel art is perfectly displayed in showcasing the winter landscapes, predominantly through whites and greys. The majority of the backgrounds are of snow-covered forests, but dark winter greens of the pines peek out from beneath the sharp white snow, and the blues of the sky and water stand out in vivid contrast. The natural highlight is a river Chris follows on his journey to the north, which casts a reflection of trees shed of their summer leaves and the cold blue/grey mountains in the distance as you travel along.  

However, there is some nice variety as well, so the landscapes are certainly not monotonous in any way. Of particular note is the rustic cabin where the young snowman builder lives with his father. In winter, the house and car parked out front are coated in snow, yet when we see the cabin later it is springtime and the colours have changed to the vivid greens of new life, the snow all gone now that winter has passed. Another scene shows Chris looking at a red and orange sunset while seated on an iceberg.

The animations fit well with the backgrounds, with touches such as hot springs and coloured Christmas lights twinkling on a house really bringing particular backgrounds to life. In one cutscene, visually the same as the rest of the game, Chris is walking through the usual forest scenery, but the use of parallax scrolling, where the foreground elements move at a slower rate than the mid and background elements, really enhances what is a simple walking animation. 

One minor quibble is that when characters move in or out of a door, there is no animation, just the sound effect of a door opening or closing with the graphic staying static. Chris doesn’t have many animations overall, and as a snowman he doesn’t walk so much as bobs along. The variety of characters, mostly animals, are all well-drawn and animated in the same retro art style. A deer you interact with moves gracefully and turns to face you, animating while speaking during your conversation, while a crow flies in a realistic manner before landing on you to talk. There’s a very nice animation of a seal jumping out of the water that is matched by an excellent water sound effect.

Indeed, all of the ambient audio works together with the soundtrack to immerse you into this wintery world, and none of it seems out of place or jarring. The MIDI-style acoustic guitar music is eerie and haunting, very much setting the melancholy mood the game is aiming for. 

On PC you’ll navigate Chris using the left mouse button or the arrow keys, but I found the mouse control to be more natural and intuitive, while talking to another character or picking up an object is achieved with a simple left-click. The game automatically records your progress but there is only one save slot, with the option to continue or start again when you first load the game. This will be frustrating to old-school adventure gamers, but in a linear game with a playtime of only a couple of hours and no potential game overs, I didn’t find this to be an issue.

The only real downside to Snowman Story is the main gameplay conceit, which takes the form of a mobile-based sliding puzzle (which is apt, considering the game was first released on mobile platforms). Chris’ journey will inevitably take him to the edge of a section of ice that he can’t move around, yet stepping on the ice will slide Chris in the direction he entered, not stopping until he either stops at some snow, or by running into a rock or tree stump. If Chris can slide to stump A, he’ll stop and be able to then slide to snow pile B, where he will stop again, requiring the correct sequence of moves to reach the exit. The puzzles are an exercise in logic and physics and increase in difficulty as the game progresses. The addition of a talking gorilla in later puzzles adds a new element of moving boulders into the mix.

I can imagine that some people might like these puzzles, but I found them tedious and repetitive after the first one. They don’t add anything to the game except by increasing the play time, and more importantly they detract from the story that is building through the interactions with other characters. Fortunately you are able to skip these scenes by pressing a fast-forward button or reset the puzzle if you feel like you’re in an unwinnable state. There is also a helpful mole who shows up at the start of each puzzle and, if clicked on, will reveal the correct order to navigate the obstacles and reach the other side of the ice.

Final Verdict

Snowman Story isn’t what I expected. Instead of the storybook Christmas tale of goodwill and holiday cheer, this one is deep and sentimental, drawing out universal feelings relating to acceptance and dealing with regret. Aside from the casual puzzles, which I found unnecessarily distracting, all the other elements convincingly set a thoughtful mood and connect everything to the final emotional payoff. The retro pixel art graphics are an issue of personal taste, but I personally loved them and thought the narrative was told effectively through them. Either way, what is sure to appeal to any player is the deeply emotional development of Chris the Snowman on his existential quest to live.

Hot take


Snowman Story isn’t your typical Christmas tale and the singular puzzle type does it no favours, but it tells a gripping and emotional tale, in a delightfully vivid pixel art style, of a snowman trying to escape his inevitable springtime thaw. 


  • Well-crafted story exploring emotions of regret and acceptance
  • Ability to explore the stories of other characters first-hand
  • Charming pixel art graphics
  • Haunting MIDI-style soundtrack captures the atmosphere perfectly


  • Repetitive and redundant sliding puzzles
  • Only one save slot

Shawn played Snowman Story on PC using a review code provided by the game's publisher.


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