The more games I play, the more I see these interactive experiences as the creative concepts they are. While some games really are just a way to pass the time, others are about telling a story and sharing something important. This is particularly common in the indie games landscape.
First Snow is an example of how game development and art are closely intertwined. Usually, this is the kind of casual title I wouldn’t pay much attention too. While interactive novels are great, they can also be a little too deep for me when I’m looking to unwind with some puzzles or first-person shooters.
However, since First Snow arrived on the Steam free to play market in August, it’s gained many positive reviews. Designed by Salty Salt Studios and published by Studio Elan, this is an attractive anime-style game. The art reminds me a lot of the Doki Doki Literature club – though a lot less creepy.
Let’s dive into this brief visual novel.
A Story of Self Discovery
This is the first visual novel to come from Salty Salty Studios. It’s an interesting journey into what the company may be able to accomplish. Although you’re not going to get a lot of action-packed and dynamic graphics here, the visuals are attractive. Everything has a soft hand-drawn atmosphere to it. If you’re used to reading manga, then you’ll feel right at home here.
In First Snow, you play as a freshman student named Allison Merlo. Allison has moved away from her family and friends to pursue her dreams at college. She’s left all of her home comforts behind, and now she’s facing the strain of learning how to live independently for the first time.
You can sense the emotion in this story. It’s clear that Allison is nervous about her new life, and even if you haven’t moved to somewhere new to start college, we can all resonate with that “fish out of water” experience.
Fortunately, Allison is eager to make new friends and start carving a path for herself. This is where the game begins. To boost her chances of making some positive connections, Allison joins a new art club. The club is full of creative artists and writers, including the enigmatic Eileen Turner.
Somewhat predictably, the story in First Snow quickly becomes one of self-discovery. Allison begins to question her sexuality, and she develops feelings for Eileen. Although Eileen doesn’t seem like a particularly warm person, she shares Allison’s interest, and the two start dating.
So, what makes this visual novel different from every other kawaii coming of age tale? Well, there are a lot of moments that feel a little cliché to me.
However, what I did like is the developer’s attempts to show the slightly less attractive side of love. This is a story that’s not just about self-discovery. In First Snow, the couple discover that being in a relationship takes a lot of compromise, hard work, and sacrifice.
Time to Explore Some New Feelings
If you’re looking for a game where you can hack and slash your way to victory, or have fun experimenting with platforms, this isn’t the title for you. I probably wouldn’t suggest this game to your typical gamer. It’s more likely to appeal to a literature fan who wants to start experimenting with games for the first time. The good news, however, is that there are some Steam achievements. So you can still satisfy your inner competitor.
Rather than asking you to complete puzzles or destroy your enemies, First Snow allows you to follow a girl on a new journey in her life. You get a first-hand insight into a coming-of-age story that’s all about change. Yes, there’s a lesbian romance involved, but there’s more to this tale than just LGBTQ pride.
The First Snow game is actually a spin-off of a currently unreleased visual novel. It comes from Suriko, who’s also responsible for the Kataway Shoujo visual novel. The developers seem to hint that there’ll be more story to discover in the Twofold novel that this game comes from. However, for this free-to-play title, you get a total of three acts, exploring the connection between Eileen and Alison.
First Snow explores the idea that forming a romantic relationship isn’t always easy – even when the right feelings are there. When Alison and Eileen get together, they learn that they need to grow in a range of ways. There is a little bit of co-dependency on show here, but the issue comes across as more of a growing pain than a real problem.
Although I found it difficult to like Eileen at first (particularly since she was so begrudging about joining the art club), the relationship is interesting to watch.
An Artistic Storytelling Experience
The art style is one of the things I liked most about First Snow. Each character seems to be cut out of paper, and there’s a customizable color scheme to spice things up too. On top of that, you also get to enjoy a completely original soundtrack that’s extremely calming and appealing.
I liked the way that the color pallet in the game automatically changes when Allison reminisces about her past. Happier memories glow with warmth, while sadder ones take a shadowy tone. Each act of First Snow takes about an hour to finish – depending on how fast you read.
If you want to linger in each scene and check out the details of the artwork, you may take longer to finish the game. Honestly, I was quite impressed by the level of detail in a lot of the pictures.
There are a few problems with this game, of course. For instance, as I mentioned above, some of the story points are pretty predictable, and even cliché in places. There are also inconsistencies in the story in places that have you questioning how long the developers spent between each design session.
I also noticed points where Allison’s growth on an emotional level seems to back-track. However, that actually made me feel like she was more of a realistic character. We’ve all had times when a memory from our past stunts our progress in the present.
Ultimately, First Snow isn’t a game that’s going to appeal to everyone but it’s an experience worth having. There are some beautiful pieces of art to discover, and characters that you can really get behind.
If you’re looking for something attractive to play, you can download First Snow for free here.