I played an amazing (and free!) mobile game a few weeks ago, and it helped keep me sane.
The Frostrune is a point and click mystery game by Snow Cannon Games. I played it on mobile but it’s also available for PC. The gameplay is set in a small Norse village in the 10th century, and you play a 13 year old girl who is the only survivor of a shipwreck. When you wash up on shore, you find an abandoned village with patches of mysterious frost and several murdered corpses. One of them, the local seer, gives you the ability to see the spirit world, which you use to protect yourself and the remains of the town.
The initial setup of the game seems a little unnecessary. I guess the story needed the girl to be alone in a new place, but the shipwreck itself never really adds much to the story or setting. The setting is so rich otherwise. The scenes are all beautifully painted with tons of detail – it makes sense for a point and click, where you need to be both drawn in and distracted by the setting so that you look for hidden objects but they’re also not so obvious. I like the restraint the developers used in creating a realistic Viking village – there’s not a lot in the way of outrageous costumes, and even the mystical aspects are fairly low-key. The people are mostly dressed simply and the houses look lived-in. It makes the introduction of a mystical storyline a bit more organic, so that you feel that the character you’re playing is just as surprised by what is happening as you are. There’s also a lot of consideration in the game for a range of art. There are beautiful carved loom weights, tapestries, stone paintings, and even children’s drawings, and they all represent different styles and levels of skill, while still offering a consistent vocabulary of themes.
The gameplay is just challenging enough for a mobile game. The scenes aren’t so large that it’s hard to see or click on small objects, but they all have enough in them to make them feel full. You return to most locations multiple times as new discoveries make previously stationary items mobile – I particularly like that aspect because it stops you from hoarding all the objects you need to find early in the game, and encourages you to learn more about each scene. Although the locations can get a little confusing and I found myself retracing my steps a few times, even toward the end of the game. When you do get stuck, there’s a reasonable hint system that just explains exactly where to find something – I really appreciate this feature. A lot of puzzle games think that they can never tell you the solution, or the solution they do give you has to be in a particular order, as if this maintains the integrity of the puzzle-solving mythos. But the fact is, people observe things differently and sometimes you just don’t see it – I don’t want to get frustrated and put down a good game just because the developers refuse to help me move forward.
A lot of the gameplay in The Frostrune really is puzzle-solving. And the puzzles are interesting and different each time. Most involve seeing an image in one place and replicating some aspect of it somewhere else – the order of a set of symbols, matching a specific color to a specific object – but the actual mechanics of each puzzle varies. There’s even two musical puzzles, with some very cool polyphonic hymn. Sometimes I just didn’t get the point of a given puzzle, but that’s where the hint system really worked out.
The Frostrune is a fun little game with incredible production. I would be happy to play a full PC version of this game, with multiple levels and more story. In some ways it reminds me of the point and click storybook games I played as a kid, which makes me think it would be a great vehicle for some real information about medieval Scandinavia. I will say some aspects of it are just a tad creepy, which makes it not ideal for your pre-bed game playing. But otherwise, it was an engaging way to pass the time.