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Crimson Snow (2023) - Christmas Horror Game Review
Release date: 29 March 2023
Developer: Steppe Hare Studio
Crimson Snow is a new Christmas-themed indie horror game from the developers of "Irony of Nightmare".
The game was created by a small Russian studio, consisting of only a few people.
It was translated into English and released on Steam recently in 2023.
Shortly before Christmas, the main character receives a letter from his ex-girlfriend, with whom he broke up a long time ago. In the letter, she suggests meeting again and trying to rekindle the relationship.
But such a sudden comeback does not cause our hero much joy. He already has a new lover named Joyce, with whom he planned to spend Christmas together.
And so he comes to Joyce's house on Christmas evening - but instead of a romantic meeting, some inexplicable Silent Hill-esque stuff suddenly begins to happen there.
The appearance of the house changes in a strange way, and Joyce disappears somewhere. And in addition, a monster woman with long-bladed nails appears in the mansion, her face suspiciously similar to our ex-girlfriend.
Wandering around the house and fleeing from a monster woman, we must figure out what is happening here.
Gameplay and interesting ideas
The gameplay is made in the form of an adventure game with a first-person view and some stealth elements. We walk around the mansion, look for useful items, solve puzzles, and sometimes play stealth with the monster girl. There is also a hide and seek system similar to Clock Tower (but in a simplified form).
The strength of the game is that there are quite a lot of interesting and memorable situations. Each scene has some cool ideas, and there is a sense of variety. And thanks to this, the game does not let you get bored.
There is also an interesting feature in Crimson Snow: sometimes we will talk on the phone with our girlfriend Joyce - and during conversations the player will constantly have to make "moral choices”. Our answers will affect the ending - Joyce might even die if we tell her something stupid on the phone.
The game has a good length by the standards of budget indie horror games. The first playthrough takes about 4 hours, if you take your time and carefully examine everything around you. On a second playthrough, you can probably speedrun the game in 1,5 or 2 hours.
Plus, there is a certain replay value here, since the developers have prepared 6 different endings and an additional side-quest with puzzles.
The puzzles in Crimson Snow are well balanced. They're not complicated, but they're not stupid either.
Among the riddles, you can even find a small reference to Silent Hill 1 - in one scene you need to play a melody on a piano, where several keys are stained with blood. Nice fan service for Silent Hill fans. I also liked the riddle with the bookcase and paintings - it was cleverly thought out.
The puzzles here are optional - you don't have to solve them to complete the game. But for solving each puzzle, you can get a piece of paper with some story-related information. And if you solve all the puzzles, you will be able to discover the happiest ending. However, the reward turned out to be dubious - this bonus happy ending looks too sweet and kinda cringey.
Now about the shortcomings of the gameplay:
1) The stealth mechanics and hide and seek system are very primitive. And on top of that, the game doesn't give you any freedom. There is only one correct route in each stealth scene. For any step in the wrong direction, the game will instantly punish you with death. And the places for hiding are all the same (you can only hide under the tables).
2) While exploring the house, the main character makes almost no comments on objects. The process of wandering around the house could have been more interesting if the hero had been more talkative.
3) There is no manual save system. Only an auto-save, which is rewritten after each checkpoint. Therefore, if you want to replay your favorite scene, then you will be forced to replay the entire game again.
The cool feature of the game is the interesting use of New Year and Christmas themes, with a horror twist.
We light up dark rooms with sparklers, distract the monster woman with a gift under the tree, watch old black-and-white Christmas movies on TV, and play "Jingle Bells” on a bloody piano. And even the corpses in the game are carefully wrapped in glowing festive garlands.
Therefore, Crimson Snow took an honorable place in our hit parade of Christmas horror games.
The game's story is simple and reminiscent of some random youth horror films. You shouldn't expect much depth or elaboration from it. But at the same time, it leaves a good impression. The best feature of the scenario is that the theme of relationships with an ex-girlfriend is played out in an interesting way.
I also like the idea of "moral choices” influencing the ending. The question and answer system in the dialogues with Joyce is well thought out.
The weak point of the plot is the endings. Although there are a lot of them, they are poorly made even by the standards of indie projects. The endings last 15-20 seconds and consist of literally a couple of phrases. It seems that in the end the developers got a bit lazy.
Plus, all "good" endings in the game look somewhat cringey. Personally, I only liked the worst ending, where Joyce dies.
Another weak point of the story is the character development. The main character has almost no personality. And Joyce is just a random "good girl" without any memorable traits. It would be nice to see a more interesting heroine.
The game cannot be called really scary. There are several reasons for this:
1) The Monster Girl is an interesting concept, but it’s difficult to take her seriously. She is perceived more as a walking meme than as something frightening. The situation is aggravated by low AI - you can walk right behind her back, and she won’t notice you.
2) The hide and seek system is too primitive. You can always be 100% sure that you have chosen the right place to hide, because the developers never offer you any other place for hiding (except under the tables).
3) Checkpoints occur regularly, approximately every five minutes - so you don’t have to be afraid of dying.
4) The game very often tries to scare you with sudden jumpscares - but for some reason these jumpscares never work here. And every time they just cause a facepalm instead of fear.
But at the same time, Crimson Snow is an atmospheric game in its own way. The melancholic winter atmosphere and the feeling of lonely wandering through an abandoned house are well conveyed here.
In this sense, the game is very reminiscent of "Silent Hill Shattered Memories". It had similar vibes and atmosphere.
And in general, Crimson Snow feels like a simplified version of SHSM with a first-person view. So if you liked Shattered Memories, then you will probably like this game too.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically, Crimson Snow looks great considering that the game was developed by only three people. The interiors of the mansion are well designed and look quite realistic.
The game does not have its own soundtrack. For the music, ready-made tracks from different composers were used. But they are chosen nicely and help to create a melancholic atmosphere.
The game can also be praised for its good voice acting. Moreover, the authors voiced it not only in Russian, but also in English.
Pros and Cons of the game
+ Melancholic winter atmosphere.
+ Many interesting and memorable situations.
+ Creepy use of Christmas themes.
+ The story is simple, but leaves a good impression.
+ Nice graphics and location design.
+ The house is fun to explore.
+ Good puzzles.
+ A well-thought-out system of "moral choices”.
+ Nice selection of music.
+ High-quality voice acting.
+ Many endings, replay value.
- The game is not really scary, and the jumpscares don't work.
- Stealth and hiding system is very simple.
- Poor character development.
- Sloppy endings.
- Almost no comments during exploration.
- No manual saves.
Crimson Snow is a good indie horror if you don't ask too much from it. The game will not surprise you with a deep story, polished gameplay, or a high degree of horror. But it leaves a pleasant impression thanks to the melancholic winter atmosphere, interesting situations, as well as the creative use of Christmas aesthetics and the theme of relationships.
Other interesting articles
about horror games on our website:
>> Horror Game Reviews <<
>> Museum of Horror Games <<
Author of the article: SilentPyramid
Date of publication: 13.12.2023
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