Ah, the holidays. A time to reflect on what the previous year has brought into your life. A Time for family, food, and murder.
Well, when it comes to the festivities of Crimson Snow, murder is indeed on the menu. This story-driven holiday horror game recently made its way to Early Access on Steam. So, in honor of the season, we decided to give it a spin to see if it’s a great holiday gift or a lump of coal.
Dashing Through the Snow
Crimson Snow starts on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve. The tutorial does a great job of introducing you to the environment and major characters. Your long-term girlfriend Joyce lives across the street. The opening dialogue and conversation do well to ease you into the gameplay. You’ll often be prompted a choice of “A” or B” dialogue options. These will help shape how the story turns out, though the payoffs aren’t as profound as I would have liked.
Being a horror game, something has to go wrong: your ex-girlfriend shows up and wants to be back in your life. She’s pretty determined, too; after trying to walk over to Joyce’s house, your ex decides to go full-blown supernatural demon on you. Literally. You get lost in the snowstorm and wind up in your evil ex’s house. This is where the game properly begins.
The gameplay feels similar to Amnesia or Soma. You can’t hurt the monsters; your only options are to run and hide. As a result, you’re forced to create distractions in the house to escape her. You’ll have to set up the tree, for example. This is one of many examples where developer Steppe Hare Studio nails the Christmas theme. The environment does Christmas justice. The decorations, from the lights on the wall to the tree and festive treats, really sell you on the holiday vibe.
But it also does the horror vibe well. The transition from holiday cheer to horror despair is done well. For every ounce of festive joy that once blessed your screen, absolute terror soon takes over. The highlight may be the bodies wrapped in tarps and tied with Christmas lights. There’s an impressive amount of attention to detail to nail everything about the game’s Christmas and horror aesthetics.
Run Run, Rudolph, Crimson Snow Has To Make It to Town
Evading your ex isn’t entirely too challenging. You can use the flares to stun her if she’s nearby temporarily, but don’t rely too heavily on this as she’s quick to continue pursuing you after.
As a result, you’ll need to change things up if you want to survive. For example, finding tables to hide under is a perfectly viable strategy. On the other hand, she strangely doesn’t notice if you’re walking right behind her. You’re safe and sound as long as you’re not in her direct line of sight. So feel free to sneak right past her as long as she doesn’t turn around during her pathing. It’s like the awkward moment where a video game boss that will stop at nothing to kill you can clearly see you in front of them. Yet you haven’t passed that imaginary line that begins combat. It’s one of Crimson Snow’s issues with polish. For a game that does everything right thematically, it’s disappointing.
On the flip side, your ex’s hearing is immaculate. The sound of smashed Christmas decorations will alert her to your presence. Make up your mind, game! Either you can see me right behind you, or you can’t hear me from a mile away.
The game has some light combat once you can finally find a weapon. While relatively simple, it does it fine.
The final fight may be the best part of this game. I’ll keep it spoiler-free, but it’s a well-designed fight that’s easy to figure out with an explosive ending.
Conversely, none of the puzzles are too hard in this game. Most of them are just finding different objects, keys, or switches to progress further into the house. After every major event, you get a call from your girlfriend Joyce, who’s worried about what you’re going through. You can help or console her with your actions.
Crimson Snow Is a Good Time, but It Won’t Last Long
Overall this game’s biggest problem is its length.
It leaves a lot to be desired at just over an hour for a first playthrough. The price is nice at just $7 on Steam, but you may still feel short-changed. There isn’t any real incentive to go back outside of choosing different dialogue options. Crimson Snow feels lacking compared to games like The Quarry, which offer branching storylines to aid its replayability. Obviously, there’s a big difference between Crimson Snow and the Quarry in terms of budget and scope. Still, I still left Crimson Snow wanting more than I got.
If you’re a fan of holiday-themed horror games and want something quick to play, it will be worth your time. For most, though, I’m not sure there’s enough to satisfy you.