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Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley Review

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley Review

I heard about a new game being set in the world of the Moomins a while ago but dismissed it almost instantly; having grown up in Finland in the early ‘90s, I’ve seen my fair share of games with the titular characters that have been little more than simple point-and-click titles for the very young. However, seeing the game featured Snufkin as the main character did spark some interest, which was then stoked further by participating in the preview event held by the publisher and developer (Raw Fury and Hyper Games, respectively). I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley for review, allowing me to see for myself what the green-clad traveller’s tale had to offer.

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The first few scenes do a good job of giving newcomers the basics

The plot is simply that the main character, Snufkin, has set off on his yearly migration down south, leaving the titular Moominvalley and its inhabitants — including his friend Moomintroll — behind as they begin preparations for their hibernation. Though always a sombre scene, Moomintroll promises to await Snufkin's return in the coming Spring, as they have done many times before. As our wilderness-bound hero makes his way back to the valley, however, he finds that it has changed: signs have been put up all over and parks have been erected in the wilderness, ruining its charm and free nature. Our hero is very firmly against this and sets off to pull up every last sign and topple every last park, all while searching for his friend, who seems to have disappeared during Snufkin’s absence.

This may sound like the setup for a wild adventure of destruction, dastardly deeds, and misdemeanour, but that's not how the Moomin world rolls. While our hero does indeed pull up signs and destroy property, it is never done by harming others. Instead, Snufkin uses his wits to confuse and redirect the law-upholding zeal of the many police officers guarding the parks. After all, if there are no signs, there are no laws to uphold, so they are best served to go off to find some rules to enforce elsewhere.

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No sign tells Snufkin when to Kettle!

On his journey to rid nature of parks and rules, the verdant adventurer also runs into multiple other characters, most of whom are familiar to fans of the source material, such as Sniff, the Moomin family, and Little My. Surprisingly, the game gives some minor characters, often showing up in only a few books or episodes, time to shine as well: the dour and philosophical Muskrat, the lost-in-life Teety-Woo, and even Sniff’s loyal companion, Cedric, make an appearance! While these names may mean little to a newcomer, having them around gives the game more life in terms of characters to interact with, but also a feel of being made with passion, not simply slamming all the “big names” up front and centre.

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Where's Snufkin?!

In terms of mechanics, the game is very simple, but in a good way. You can walk (or run for short bursts) around the stunningly beautiful valley, and hop onto and off ledges, in addition to pushing, pulling, and carrying items to solve environmental puzzles, like pushing a log onto a stream to make a bridge. When entering a park that needs disassembly, the game turns into a stealth game, complete with vision cones, hiding spots, and ways to get those pesky guards out of the way. Again, nothing advanced or greatly challenging, but I don’t believe they’re meant to be!

Much like the Moomin franchise itself, Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley doesn’t place emphasis on action or challenge. Sure, these facets are present; it is possible to fail and have to start over, after all, but I found the action-y sections to be great chances of pace in between the actual core game: exploration, kindness, and music.

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I love how A) the area of your music is affected by the terrain and B) the officer is not paid enough for this

As the title Melody of Moominvalley hints at, music is a big part of the game. Snufkin never goes anywhere without his trusty harmonica and is quite skilled with the instrument when inspiration hits. By playing it — and two other instruments unlocked further on — the olive musician can convince the many denizens and animals of Moominvalley to help him out. This can range from convincing a fish to swim closer to you, simultaneously bringing a needed item with it, to serenading a tired guard to sleep; each instrument has its own use and accompanying visuals. Regretfully, our hero comes to this adventure mostly without inspiration, which is directly related to how well he can play. You can gain inspiration by exploring, doing quests — these are usually minor tasks that don’t take overly long in a good way, don’t let the term fool you — and progressing in the story. Once you’ve gained enough, your “level” will increase, allowing you to influence even more of the different creatures.

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Visually this game is amazing, somehow simultaneously capturing the charm of the animated series and the original books, while still retaining its own distinct look. The characters are expressive and the world itself is a pleasure to look at, as its slightly subdued colour and storybook-esque outlook is easy on the eyes. Despite looking reminiscent of paper cutouts, the game is animated surprisingly smoothly, especially when the vision cones of guards or the range of your current instrument is shown. The dedication to the source material is also admirable, as they have tried to replicate the locations many fans may be familiar with. The map screen is also absolutely stunning, leaving me open-mouthed in wonder when I first opened it by accident. It’s like something from the books, if not literally so!

The sound design fits the Moomins well, using similar sounds and musical elements, though I was a bit disappointed by the breadth of the music; I felt the background music changed relatively seldom and didn’t really evolve past that. It should be stated that the sound design fits the mellow tone of the game very well! But having grown up with the show and its exceptional, often hauntingly beautiful tracks, this was not quite what I was expecting.

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However, despite the lovely landscape and comfortably mellow atmosphere, I did have some small issues with the game. Main among my quibbles is the way the game handles jumping and placing items; whenever you find a ledge or rock you can hop on, a small indicator appears letting you know it’s time to smack that bottom face button! A similar indicator is shown when you are carrying an item that can be dropped, showing you where it can be set down. The issue is that this icon seems to be anchored to your movement, meaning that one slight twitch from the controller may cause you to miss your target and either hop in place or drop the boulder you were carrying onto your poor little toes. This is a very minor issue, but annoying enough to warrant notice.

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In addition to the minor control issue, I did experience some audio hiccups. The music seemed to stutter in some places, in addition to Snufkin’s musical demonstrations seeming to loop the same part endlessly. The worst offender of these was a bee I was supposed to escort to its hive. What was supposed to be a quiet buzzing turned into the ever-familiar symphony of two physics objects trembling at each other.

One last minor scruple I had was the lack of voice acting, as I often feel games gain a lot more depth via spoken dialogue. However, the game has a habit of using different effects in the dialogue to convey emotions, which worked surprisingly well. Snufkin also gained back any points lost and then some due to having an honest-to-goodness Finnish translation! This is a very biased point to praise, and it should be said that there are multiple language options to pick from, but being able to switch on over to the language of my childhood was amazing. They even managed to keep the tone and “style” of speech used in the books and show, which was a treat.

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For such a green guy, signs sure make Snufkin see a lot of red

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is a game I did not expect to like as much as I did. Exploring the valley, meeting the characters, doing simple quests, and just experiencing the oh so Finnish melancholy of the game were relaxing and the small puzzles and stealth sections presented enough entertainment to keep the game feeling fresh. I feel this was a passion project for the devs, and if so it really shows. There are so many little things, like the water’s reflection shining in a cave, the many vistas and resting areas where Snufkin can sit down and enjoy the view, that make this experience absolutely lovely. While certainly not for everyone, I recommend trying it out to fans of Moomins or anyone looking for a wholesome adventure to take part in!

9.50/10 9½

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley (Reviewed on Windows)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is a beautiful and laid-back game with fun mechanics, charming dialogue, and a fitting story. While not long, it’s worth every moment.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Martin Heath

Martin Heath

Staff Writer

Professional Bungler

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Erinsfrustrated - 08:40pm, 5th March 2024

Wow, this game looks amazing! I'm really sad that I haven't actually watched or read any Moomin before, but this really looks like a fun place to jump in. I love the art style! So cozy

Thejakman - 10:10am, 12th March 2024 Author

I completely agree! It's not very long and gives a great look at the world of Moomin. Even without that, it's a short and fun little experience. Can recommend!