Sunday, 13 December 2015

Snezhaja Koroleva (Arcade)

So, here's a game that was made in the Soviet Union (specifically Ukraine, I believe), for a Soviet audience. Though it was released in 1988, it's apparently based on a 1957 animated film, itself based on Hans Christian Andersen's story The Snow Queen. I haven't seen that movie, but I'm sure it can't be the worst animated adaptation that story's received.

Though some might hold lazy stereotypes about technology in the USSR being primitive in comparision to that of the rest of the world, graphically, Snezhaja Koroleva appears to be on a par with what a lot of videogames looked like in 1988. I definitely wouldn't look too out of place on the Master System or maybe even as a budget-priced Amiga release of that period.

Of course, in terms of aesthetics and game mechanics, it was probably developed in a state of relative isolation from its Japanese, American and Western European peers, and as a result, it has a fairly different structure and feel to it. It's essentially a collection of single-screen mini-games.

You play as Gerda, out to find her missing friend Kay, and on each screen, the goal is to reach the top-right corner, with each screen providing its own obstacles. Oddly, though most of the screens are platformers, the first is a maze, that has you avoiding monsters while picking up roses before heading to the corner to exit. There's some thing of a "Game and Watch" quality to the rest of the screens, as they focus on avoiding or navigating various obstacles, sometimes requiring frame-perfect timing. I was going to say that the game's easy to get through, after I managed it on my second attempt, but then on every subsequent attempt, I totally failed, so who knows? I also had a theory that the game was "allowed" to be easy and just tell a story because it was developed outside of capitalism and the profit motive demanding a challenging coin-muncher. But I guess my own ineptitude has put paid to that idea.

As it is, and as it often is with old games developed outside the "usual" game-developing regions, Snezhaja Koroleva (or Снежная королева, if you like) is more of an endearing curiosity than an unearthed lost classic. Still, it's nice that games like these are preserved for everyone to play, isn't it?

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