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Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley screenshot

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley review

Whether or not you know much about the Moomins, the iconic Finnish characters created by Tove Jansson, is irrelevant. You might find yourself slightly more drawn to Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley if you do, sure, but ultimately this is a whimsical, non-violent adventure that absolutely anyone can enjoy. And enjoy it they will: Snufkin is utterly wonderful.

Snufkin has been developed by Hyper Games, a small studio based in Oslo, Norway. Being Norse, it’s a team that’s grown up with Moomins. While those adorable white hippo-like creatures are known the globe over, in the Nordic countries they have a greater significance – an “emotional meaning”, Hyper Games told us. And so, being tasked to bring them to life in an original video game is not only an honour but a great task to set upon very seriously.

Hyper Games’ imagining of the Moomins puts Snufkin, normally a secondary character, at the forefront. All the characters you’ll find in Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley are known creations from Tove Jansson, but Hyper Games have been given the creative freedom to express themselves a little in their personalities. Some characters may have new edges to their personality, perhaps, or maybe new friendships and rivalries might show through.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Raw Fury

Here, you see, Snufkin’s primary antagonist is the Park Keeper, and it’s a feud between these two characters that moves the story forward. Snufkin has been away from Moominvalley for some time, and upon returning he finds the blasted Park Keeper has ruined his precious valley. There are signs telling him what he can and can’t do. A river has stopped flowing. Areas have been landscaped and, worse of all, animals have been driven away from the area. It won’t do at all.

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And so, over the course of the game, you’ll pull out the Park Keeper’s signs, undo his work and restore the valley to how it should be. It’s the right thing to do, right? And along the way, you’ll meet familiar faces, engage in some side quests and simply enjoy exploring this gorgeously-presented hand-drawn world.

With rights to the Moomins still managed by the Jansson family, Hyper Games has worked closely with the Moomin company. Described as an active collaboration, they’ve been in touch almost daily during production. Moomin Characters Oy Ltd, the licenseholders, may be strict in terms of ensuring only quality products carry the Moomin brand, but they’ve been very open with Hyper Games’ creativity.

It’s an openness that has paid off, as the resulting game is something truly special indeed — and while we don’t yet know what the Jansson family and the company at large think of the final product, it’s hard to imagine them being anything other than absolutely delighted.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Raw Fury

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is best described as a musical adventure game. We spoke with Hyper Games last week, just before we began playing, and they emphasised the focus on music being the key to solving puzzles. There’s no violence in the game, and so music becomes the way to solve conflict. Snufkin has, to begin with, a harmonica at his disposal and as you move through the game, he’ll also acquire a flute and a drum.

Playing these instruments in front of creatures (and occasionally elements in nature) has various effects on them. For instance, playing your harmonica for a sea creature might encourage him to give you a ride on his back. And playing your flute for an angry crab might lull it to sleep. There’s never any guesswork involved: when you need to use an instrument, the game clearly lets you know by way of a bubble which also highlights which instrument you need.

There’s little challenge at all to be found in Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley, in fact. Its puzzles are pleasing to solve, but they’re hardly taxing. There are a number of light stealth sections, where Snufkin has to sneak past, or otherwise distract, police officers guarding the parks, but you won’t have to spend too long working out which path to take. The joy doesn’t come from being challenged; rather, it’s simply found in exploring the world, engaging with its characters and losing yourself in the beautiful whimsy of the game.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Raw Fury

The soundtrack helps too. Whether it’s the sound of Snufkin’s flute or the beautiful notes that play out as you explore, a lot of thought has gone into bringing Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley’s score to life. Well, if you have the word ‘Melody’ in a game’s title, music has to be important, right? In fact, you’ll find some music from Sigur Rós here which is absolutely perfect for the tone of the game. An absolute match made in heaven, almost.

Perhaps the only complaint? Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is very short – you’ll be done with it in around four or five hours, even if you engage with its side activities. It’s perfectly-formed, though, but it leaves you wanting more. We’d have happily stayed wandering through Moominvalley for twice, three times as long.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is the kind of gorgeous, wonderful indie gem that leaves you with a huge smile on your face. Whether you’re familiar with the Moomins or not doesn’t matter one jot here as care has been taken to make sure this game is accessible to everyone. Its beautiful art style and equally mesmerising soundtrack will keep you hooked from start to finish — we just wish there was more to enjoy.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley review – GameSpew’s score

This review of Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is based on the PC version of the game, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on Switch and PC.

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