Thursday, 05 May 2016 00:00

Midvinter Review

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Midvinter is an interesting and short adventure story where you play as a gnome of Swedish folklore trying to stop a troll from swapping her baby with the newborn human on your farm.

The music and stylistic art choices immediately stand out as a centerpiece for this game. Violin strings drone somberly in the background while the bleak and shadowed landscape of a 19th century Swedish farm wrap you in a mythological world that feels deep and meaningful.

The game is a point and click adventure based around puzzles and riddles. If you are at all familiar with point and click games, these challenges will be a breeze for you. There's not a whole lot of cranial-processing required with such a limited amount of space and time to explore the farm. Nisse, the gnome, gets power and strength from doing household chores like untangling yarn or putting tools back where they belong – a nod to Swedish mythology. These chores are crucial if you wish to challenge the troll yourself.

There are at least three outcomes to the game (all of which can be discovered in around an hour of play time). One is failure, another is confronting the troll yourself, and the last involves recruiting the guardian of the forest, Skogsrå, for aid in the final show down.

The quest for Skogsrå's loyalty is the most in-depth and interesting within Midvinter; in fact, it's basically the only real quest. It'll take you across the farm a couple of times, and hopefully you won't need to retrace your steps because nighttime is finite, and it takes you an absurdly long time to walk across the map.

You'll be able to visit five or six locations on the farm before dawn arrives and Nisse immediately goes home to his under-house nook. It's imperative you direct Nisse through the farm in a timely and efficient manner if you want to recruit the help of Skogsrå and defeat the troll.

The mythological themes and motifs are certainly a high point here.

Did I mention Nisse is a slow walker? Taking him near twenty seconds to walk across the screen can be a little frustrating when you find your self bouncing from one end of the scene to the other. Despite this, the slower pace of the game felt like it added more depth and style than frustration. Everything is meshed in this slowness; you have two full nights before the baby is born, yet at no point do you feel hurried or rushed.

The mythological themes and motifs are certainly a high point here. Anyone interested in Scandanavian/Germanic folklore will find themselves quite at home in Midvinter. The myths don't arrive to us as lessons or extended text, they come as the unusual cast of characters that populate this farm, from the man in the stream, Näcken, who lures humans into the river and then drowns them, to the Vättar, tiny elves who live in burrows and horde their treasured food. If nothing else, this game draws you into its world and you become invested with the plight of this small farm.

With so much myth and wonder invoked, I wanted more from Midvinter: more interaction with the landscape, more red herrings to throw me off my quest, and definitely more time with the unique characters I've grown intrigued by. Having multiple endings is interesting, but having multiple quests and plot lines would enrich our knowledge and value of this dismal yet enduring world.

Midvinter is short - too short for the price tag. If the developers extend the game as the credits suggest, it would be well worth it. As it stands, Midvinter feels more like a demo than a full fledged game. The art, music, and unique style are the primary saving graces for this release. It's quirky, strange-but-not-too-strange, and would be an excellent game for children just getting into more nuanced game styles. The atmosphere and myth of this title sticks with you long after you're done, perhaps you'll even begin to wonder if a gnome is living under your own house.


The Verdict

Even though Midvinter is surprisingly short and simple, the art direction lingers long after the game is over. Relaxing puzzles and adventures make Midvinter a fine palette cleanser between games, or an inspiring tale of mythology for children. Increasing the complexity of quests and riddles, while extending the game itself would make Midvinter an outstanding point-and-click adventure. As it stands, Midvinter feels like a short sight-seeing trip, albeit a memorable one, but the relative ease and brevity of this title keep it from being what it could be.

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Shane Lynn

Shane's earliest memory of gaming was playing Contra on the original NES. Since then he has found a love for PC gaming, Pen and Paper Role playing, and Board games. His strongest passions are in the realms of fantasy and science fiction where he has developed countless worlds, stories, table top gaming systems, and an original board game. Outside of gaming, he'll be found dancing with crystals and talking with glowing nature spirits in his backyard.


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