Snow Fall

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by EHTechnology for PC and Linux, originally released in 2018.
The story of Snow Fall centers around a character clad in winter gear whose world has been attacked by the Destroyer of Worlds, a being capable of absorbing entire galaxies… although this premise isn’t apparent in the game itself, and is featured only in the product description. The player must make his way through 18 platforming environments in five themed areas (the earliest of which are covered in snow), blasting enemies along the way and collecting crafting materials that allow him to create more powerful weapons for an eventual showdown with the evil villain.

The protagonist has a 2x nonvariable jump and the ability to wall slide and wall jump, and he is capable of jumping up almost any vertical surface. At the start of the game, he is equipped with a shotgun that does heavy damage up close but is less effective at a distance due to its scattered shooting pattern. Even in the early going, the shotgun isn’t terribly effective at dispatching enemies, as only a few foes are killed with a single shot. Most enemies require between two and four blasts to destroy.

This is not a run-and-gun shooter. The pace of combat is very deliberate, with the shotgun only capable of delivering two shots before it must be reloaded. This is a manual process, and each reloaded shot requires an individual button press. Additionally, it is only possible to shoot or reload while standing still. As such, when the player encounters an enemy, he must either avoid it, or come to a stop, pull out the weapon, aim, and fire, remembering to reload between shots. Getting too close to an enemy can also be dangerous as your bullets will not make contact unless there is space for the gun to fire, which is a shortcoming in the game's design and not a gameplay tactic.

Many enemies move back and forth at a high rate of speed and can close ground quickly, and stationary enemies are capable to tossing spears and hitting the player from a long distance. As such combat centers around reacting quickly to incoming threats from moving enemies, and dodging attacks from distant ones. The player may aim freely in any direction, so positioning is important as well, as spear-tossing enemies are ineffective when the player positioned above or below them… although they can toss spears through solid objects that otherwise stop the player's bullets.

The player has a long life bar and can absorb quite a bit of damage, but health restoratives are infrequent and only restore a sliver of health. Most levels contain a single checkpoint, which fully restores health when activated… but the locations of these checkpoints are not always clear.

Many levels are nonlinear, allowing the player to explore in any direction. Most levels contain one key and one checkpoint (some later levels have neither), along with a single exit. It’s helpful to locate the checkpoint to save progress and restore health, especially given that fast-moving enemies and popup spike traps make it easy to lose health quickly. In levels with locked exits, the key must be located before the player can move to the next area. Other pickups to be found while exploring – or occasionally dropped by defeated enemies – come in the form of crafting materials. Enemies also occasionally drop shards which may be collected, but they are not added to your inventory and have no apparent purpose.

The only way to get better weapons is to make them using items found in the environment, and a crafting menu appears between levels or whenever the player is killed. Players are free to experiment with crafting combinations without penalty, but there are icons tucked around the levels that reveal the ingredients needed to create new weapons (but these ingredients are also written on the game’s store page, so finding them in-game isn't technically necessary). For instance, combining a piece of metal, a gear, and a board results in a machine gun, which is much more effective than the default shotgun. It’s also important to note that the player can only carry one weapon at a time, and getting killed returns him to the start of the level or most recent checkpoint with just the shotgun, and all enemies in the level respawn (although the player’s collected materials remain intact).

So, not only is important to create better weapons, it’s even more important to stay alive long enough to make use of them, lest you deplete your finite supply of materials. Weapons include a long-range rifle, automatic rifle, machine gun, laser rifle, and laser machine gun. Rifles allow for more concentrated firepower at a distance, machine guns allow for rapid fire but a somewhat haphazard spray of bullets, and lasers allow for concentrated heavy damage. Better weapons have higher ammo capacity and can also be reloaded with a single button press, rather than pressing RELOAD for each individual shot.

Level designs are fairly simple and are comprised entirely of 90 degree angles. Hazards include the aforementioned popup spikes, lasers that activate a couple of second after you pass through them, and some dastardly insta-kill acid in later levels that can put a quick end to your adventure… although enemies can knock you back into pools of acid, and you can use your temporary invincibility to escape before you are killed. There are also lots of fast-moving patrolling enemies that can knock you off platforms or make you lose your grip when jumping up walls.

In the early going, the difficulty level progresses steadily, with opening levels being more linear, followed by more open environments, followed by areas where your visibility is reduced (giving you even less time to react to enemies), but then the fourth themed area changes things up by requiring no exploration as the player moves from the confines of cave systems to a largely open desert.

The desert environment is almost entirely linear and focuses on rapid platforming and very little shooting, with the player making progress simply by moving from left to right. This offers a reprieve from the prior area’s claustrophobic limited visibility environments, but it doesn’t fall in line with the previously established difficulty curve. The final themed area increases the challenge again by intermixing dangerous elements from previous levels, including insta-kill acid, and ends with the game's only boss encounter.

Aesthetically, tilesets are pretty basic across the five themed areas, offering little in the way of landmarks to players exploring the nonlinear environments. However, since killed enemies do not respawn as long as the player remains alive, this makes it easier to tell which areas have been explored, and levels are not so large as to require a map. There are a limited number of music tracks that repeat within themed areas, and they do not seamlessly loop when repeating. There are only a handful of enemies across the entire game, most of which are introduced in the first few levels, with palette-swapped variants appearing thereafter. The main character has a number of varied animations, including a particularly exuberant running animation.

Snow Fall was developed by EHTechnology, a Russian developer which previously developed the Crimson Earth series, and participated in the development of Last Tale, Uncompromising Trash, Stickman Race Draw, HellGunner, Mortifero Motus, and Lone Warrior.