When you become an adult, your relationship with snow changes in the worst way possible. As a kid, snow is like a get-out-of-jail-free card mixed with an instant playspace. In adult life, snow is a nuisance that tries to murder you while you’re trying to get to work. You can’t even look at the beautiful white dust covering all the ugliness outside without thinking, “Well, that’s gonna be a slush puddle in the morning.”
What I’m trying to say is that snow is in need of a re-branding if it wants to get off my shit-list. And A Good Snowman is Hard to Build might be the answer.
In this serene puzzler, you play as a little monster dude who wants to make a few new friends—literally make them, like out of snow! What at first seems like a simple mechanic—rolling three balls into small, medium, and large sizes and stacking them up—quickly snowballs (eh, eh?) into a complex dance around the parameters of a snowy park.
The title of this game is not to be taken in jest. Like the famed Flannery O’Conner short story that is its namesake, good snowpeople truly are hard to come by. Each different stage presents a host of obstacles that keep you from feeling the cold embrace of snowman friendship. Whether it’s a well-placed park bench or a stubborn garden wall, making your snowman friends requires a thought-out plan of action. You can’t go in all roguish and expect results, though, luckily there is an “undo” button (something I wish existed in my real-world attempts to make new friends).
The unexpected difficulty of A Good Snowman is Hard to Build occasionally borders on the frustrating side. But the game more than makes up for it, with fantastic “aha!” moments, and a character who’s as endearing to watch as any misfit animal is on YouTube. The little monster dude embodies your frustration toward niggling park benches and shrubs, pushing against them with the childish abandon of Paul Rudd in Wet Hot American Summer. As the good monster says on his Twitter, “I realised that getting angry is often part of the creative process. Sometimes you have to kick a bench & have a sit down.”
After your victory over the shrubbery, your snowperson erupts with life, adorning a variety of snowman-appropriate outfits. They even get adorably incongruous names like Tanya, shouted out by their little monster creator. Best of all, when the work is done, you can hug it out with your brand new bro-man.
Much of the game’s charm comes from discovering your little monster’s reactions to the world around him. At one point, one of my frustrated nudges at a park bench inadvertently resulted in my monster taking a quick nap on it. As he lay back to catch some Zs, the tinkering piano theme morphed into a haunting, mysterious swell as the garden transformed into a pink and navy dreamscape.
There’s so many of these fleeting yet significant moments of cuteness throughout the experience. Over on his Twitter, the good Mr. Monster says he “[likes] the spaces between words. They are where we do new thinking. Just like I like three small balls of snow, & all the potential in them.” That feeling of potential is the closest I’ve come in a while to reverting back to the infantile experience of snow. The game captures that sense of unexplored opportunity: the snow crunching underneath your feet, serenity coming and going as you play then rest—that thrill of sledding down a hill, falling into the fluffy white abyss to catch your breath, then getting up to do it all over again.
Spring might still feel painfully far away for some, but A Good Snowman is Hard to Build will remind you of all the memories we owe winter. Sure, the snow might slowly be turning NYC into a cesspool of slushy, muddy precipitation. But think of all the snowball wars being waged, the school days being missed, and hot cocoa being sipped. For the love of all that is good and innocent, think of the children—making their own lopsided best friends, one carrot nose at a time.
To make the biting temperatures less terrible, the creators are hosting a limited promotion (February 25th to March 10th) for the game on their site called “pay what the temperature is.” As designer Alan Hazelden explains about the process, “just before having his tea every day (5-6pm GMT), the monster goes out to the weather station in London to check the day’s temperature. The colder it is, the more snow you’re likely to have. The more snow you have, the more you’re going to need this guide, so the monster is going to make it cheaper. He wants the world to be filled with lots of lovely snowmen!”
Over on Steam, the game will be a boring 20% of its regular $12 price for the same amount of time.