Review: Winter Wonderland (by Laura Knauth)

(An adventure like a crackling hearthfire. It really draws you into the parallel fairytale world. Winter Wonderland - Details (ifdb.org))

A joyous Winter Solstice!

While walking home after doing an errand in town, little Gretchen is blown off the path by a sudden snowstorm. She finds herself in a wondrous snowy land under a pale wintery moon.

Winter Wonderland is a heartwarming text-adventure. The wonder and amazement at the beautiful fairytale land is played completely straight, without ironic winks or nudges. It’s clear that the author has gone to great lengths to envelop the player in a sincere and heartfelt warm and joyful experience.

The immersion in the story and the game-world is achieved in a few ways.
The implementation goes deep enough that you can examine and interact with most pieces of the surroundings, many giving an extra immersive dimension to the already evocative descriptions.
You will meet many fantastic creatures, all enjoying the winter solstice in their own festive manner. All of them will smile and acknowledge you when you greet them. You can strike up a conversation with a good deal of them.
The map is easily visualized, with the dense forest where little Gretchen appeared to the south and the snow-capped mountains so far to the north that they appear as unreachable bluish shapes far to the north. Still, there are enough little sidepaths and bottlenecks to keep it interesting.

Allthough the puzzles are mostly friendly and easy, fetching an object for an NPC to exchange it for the next item. Most of these puzzles do have an intermediary step that is not so obvious, making solving them satisfying. Two puzzles jumped out as being especially nifty, requiring a bit of thinking around the corner finding the Hedge Tunnel and getting to the Island. These raised my appreciation for the puzzles and the game as a whole.

A very smooth, warm and friendly playing-experience. Perhaps best enjoyed with a steaming mug of cocoa and a snuggle-blanket.

6 Likes

From a historical perspective (i.e. I don’t know this person at all in real life), Laura Knauth has one of the coolest author arcs.
She wrote 3 games:
-the first was really big and over-ambitious fantasy game with dozens of rooms
-inspired by comments about her first game being too big, she did the opposite and made a ‘one room game’ that was amazingly well-detailed and used color in clever ways
-finally, putting it all together, she made a game that was the best of both worlds, with a moderate amount of very well-put-together rooms and use of color and art, and won IFComp

7 Likes