I consider myself a fan of education in gaming. Between playing games like Carmen Sandiego and The ClueFinders in my youth and teaching, I remain fascinated by their use as a learning tool. You can probably tell that I enjoy taking in new information. Therefore, I relish any game that offers such an opportunity. Skábma – Snowfall, a game that lets you adventure as a Sámi shaman, exploring a world inspired by their homeland and culture, unfortunately, doesn’t quite live up to the expectations it sets. At least, not yet.
“The game succeeds at crafting a tangible world through which to experience the Sámi culture.”
Skábma – Snowfall reminds me of an early Pixar film. You control Áilu as she sets out to protect her family and home from dangerous corruption. A gentle sort of expression lingers about the world and its environments. From the trees to the mountains, everything instilled a certain calm into the world. Campfires scattered across each area offer scenic moments accompanied by beautiful songs when you stop to rest. The voice-acting is even in the Northern Sami (davvisámegiella) language. Consequently, the game succeeds at crafting a tangible world through which to experience the Sámi culture.
Sadly, Skábma – Snowfall isn’t as good at making all of its cultural information feel relevant. For example, many Sámi words are in use, though with minimal explanation. While these definitions are on the website, not having them in-game is a missed opportunity. Additionally, this information is extremely easy to miss as it is usually only given once. There are times when this is not the case, however, it is not the majority. Unfortunately, this is not the only place where the game fumbles.
“The gameplay in Skábma – Snowfall is quite enjoyable when you get the chance to engage with it. ”
The subpar communication used to bridge the language barrier extends to navigation in the game. There are no maps or significant markers present throughout your adventure. While I don’t mind the choice, the game is void of affirmation, leaving me constantly unsure of my path. As a result, I spent far too much time aimlessly running in circles. The lack of clear direction only adds unneeded frustration. This could easily be rectified with more to do, as the world feels unbelievably empty. Collectibles exist, mostly tucked away behind walls or difficult jumps. This requires numerous detours from the path forward. Of course, this only adds to the confusion, as exploration leads to disorientation.
The platforming in Skábma – Snowfall is quite enjoyable when you get the chance to engage with it. As you make your way through the story, you gain control over the elements of air, earth, fire, and water. Each element comes with an ability focused on Áilu, and one that alters the environment. For example, wind allows you to dash and summon gusts to propel you, while fire unlocks a double jump. These are fun to play with yet drastically underutilized. While it makes sense to have these act as keys for accessing new areas, the pacing does this a disservice. After spending the first two chapters without any abilities, to find that three of the remaining five act as keys was underwhelming. Slogging through to get to the enjoyable parts of the game is unnecessary, especially when they are in such short supply.
“What should be a short and engaging 3D platformer sadly devolves into 10 hours of agonizing over dead ends and unclear mechanics.”
The most frustrating part about Skábma – Snowfall is how unnecessary its issues are. Banging your drum produces light, which you will never need. It also exposes tracks that only occasionally lead you in the right direction. The lack of clarity led me to solve pretty much everything through brute force. Enemies don’t even make their introduction until Chapter 6. I had to choose to put the game down rather than try and understand their purpose. What should be a short and engaging 3D platformer sadly devolves into 10 hours of agonizing over dead ends and unclear mechanics.
I played an early build of the game, so the problems I had could be fixed in the final release. The ability to do so is already there, so a small amount of polish would easily elevate the experience. However, at this point, Skábma – Snowfall feels too much like a dated 3D platformer. This makes investing in its story challenging at best.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.